Monday, March 3, 2014

To Tristen on his 16th Birthday:

To my son on his 16th birthday:

I could be worried today about you getting your driver's license.  Instead, I'm worried about your speech.  No....not for a high school public speaking class, but focused literally on dissecting how you form your words and sentences and what I can do to help you to improve how you talk.

I could be worried about your choices in friends and how they might influence you in your newly found freedom of being a 16 year old driver; Instead, I am worried about you having any friends at all.

I could be taking you out driving and teaching you about road safety, but I am more concerned you don't understand "stranger danger"...whether you understand that not everyone is honest and trustworthy.  You have such a pure heart, it is hard for you to understand that most people in the world are not that way.

Today, I could be panicking about your current girlfriend.  Is she right for you?  Is she a good influence?  Are you making good choices when you are alone together? 

I could be praying each day that you won't come to me and tell me she's pregnant. 

But I'm not.  Instead, I wonder if you will ever get married and settle down one day. 

I'm wondering who will look out for you after I'm gone.  Your brother has already assumed to take on the responsibility, so now my prayers are focused on him as well.  I pray he will make it through his teenage years to be a responsible adult.  We are all counting on him.  He doensn't have the luxury of screwing up.

I choose to look at today optimistically, though.  I've come to the realization that I should be grateful for all the amazing qualities that make you who you are.

You know the differnce between right and wrong and always choose the high road.  You are kind to animals and help other people when they need it.  You have never done or said an unkind thing to anyone. 

Maybe there is no prom in your future.  Maybe no driver's license.  Maybe no wedding. 

Today....that's ok.

Because today, we celebrate you.  I'm choosing not to be angry today because of the
"hows" and "whys". 

I choose to be happy.

Your face is lit up with excitement and you rush to ask me if it's time to open presents.  You are bouncing up and down with glee at the thought.  You still love life.  How many parent's of 16 year old's can say that?

You are thrilled to get your favorite toys and games...not too cool for family parties or shrugging a brief "thank-you" for a wad of cash and then back to hibernate in your room.

You still like character birthday cakes and blowing out candles. 

We can still be close and enjoy time spent together.

That is not to say we haven't had our struggles over the years!

One of your birthday parties I have on video.  It was a very small party...Just our little family and one friend your age and his mom.  When we started to sing "Happy Birthday" to started yelling at us!  You were angry that we were singing (which didn't deter us by the way). You jumped around with angry eyebrows charging at  me and screeching at us as if to say  "No", "Stop", "I don't like that", except you couldn't say the words and it all came out jumbled.

On your sixteenth birthday, you sang happily with us...knowing all the words and changing the "you"s to "me"s. Your face was lit up with excitement as you sang your heart out!

I remember the tantrums at birthday parties that weren't yours...when you didn't understand why you couldn't eat the cake as soon as you saw it;  when you thought all the presents should be for you.  Despite the difficulties, we treated each instance as a learning experience...reinforcing the rules and teaching you how to behave.  It was a struggle.  I'm out of breath just thinking about how you would fight me when I tried to hold you and redirect you.  I'm sure I looked ridiculous and made everyone around me uncomfortable.

So, instead of choosing defeat today, I am choosing to look at our successes.  I choose to see your strengths and be grateful that I am fighting battles just like any other parent does with a teenager.  Our battles just look a little different.

Yeah, optimism looks good today.

Happy Birthday!