Dear Aaron,

Last year, on the occasion of your birthday, I celebrated thirteen reasons I love you. Those reasons spanned the gamut, from your smile to your confidence to your love for our animal housemates (no, I’m not referring to your sisters), but every one of them encompassed you. I went on to wish you one of your best years ever, ending the post with,

. . . remind me I said this next year, when I’m lamenting you and your teenagerness.

You know what’s so great about that wrap-up? Not that it was heart-felt or something only I would say (it was heart-felt, but most mothers, and fathers, would say it). No, what’s great about it is that I clearly know myself well. For this past year has been, in a word, tempestuous, and reading that letter—and the reminder—was truly helpful this morning when I sat down to write this letter. It reminded me that you are a typical kid. It reminded me that, no matter what sort of person you’ve morphed into with the upswing in hormones, the real Aaron I know might be inside there somewhere. Actually, no “might” about it, I know he is.

You might be wondering what I’m talking about. Well, let me remind you that for much of the past year, this is how our conversations have rolled out:

Me: Honey, I need you to [insert task here] please.

You: Grunt.

Me: I can’t understand you when you grunt.

You: Louder grunt.

I’ll give you another example:

Me: How much homework do you have? Will you be working on it long after soccer practice?

You: Mumble, mumble, mumble.

Me: Pardon me? I can’t hear you.

You: I know! I said that I didn’t have much homework!

Me: Please watch your tone.

You: What tone?

Here’s the thing. Up until this past year or so, I’ve only experienced parenting teenagers with respect to your sisters. They, of course, have their own little quirks, but grunting isn’t one of them, and somehow, when I had to ask them to watch their tone, it was for different reasons than when I have to ask you. So I’m traversing uncharted waters here (and probably messing up admirably).

Here’s the other thing. I’m still in awe of you. Your music and art, your patience, your creativity, and your ability to get things accomplished that I’m still just thinking about. The way you rest your head on my shoulder every once in a while when you sit next to me. Your appetite for everything, and I don’t mean just food (although by golly, man, you’ve upped our grocery bills this year). Teenager or not, what you have to offer stuns me, and makes me realize that you will be what you want to be, whether that’s a mathematician, a teacher, a soccer player, an orchestra conductor, an engineer, an artist, or an architect. And, you’ll do your job well because you pay attention to what’s important when it’s important, at least most of the time.

So what’s important right now? To take all your good qualities and use them to help those around us who might need a bit of help. To stay kind, even when someone isn’t kind to you. To think about someone else’s situation even when you can’t possibly fathom ever being in it. To sympathize and empathize, to use your talents to start a movement, to help the world become as absolutely fantastic as that Aaron that’s lingering behind the “teenager” façade.

Here’s to hoping that the 365 days between today and your next birthday are filled with math problems to solve, scores to write, house plans to draw up, and soccer balls to blast. I love you more than you’ll ever realize. Happy Fourteenth Birthday, Aaron.

Love, Mom

P.S. I meant what I said last night: someday, I am going to come over to your house and eat all your strawberries as a way of retaliating for eating all of mine. This is your warning.

Image of pool ball by wisconsinpics from Pixabay.com.

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