When my oldest turned 13, I spent the day at home, teary, afraid I would lose my boy to teenage turmoil. Somehow, I let myself believe the lie that there is no hope to be found teens today, that they are all selfish and dangerous and sullen.
All of which was untrue.
What I learned, and I speak about this now, is that the 13 year old you raise is the same 3 year old you taught and played with and loved. It is the same child whose laugh you know, whose gifts you respect, whose life has been lived alongside yours for so many years. And, I now know, that all the work you put in at age 1 and 11 and 13 really matters because your child knows that you are invested in them and their growth and development. That work of love builds a connection, a life-long relationship, that can, not only withstand the teen years, but flourish within them.
I was foolish to think that a birthday would take my boy from me.
And I am clinging to that lesson today.
The lessons found in his thirteenth birthday feel like a lifetime ago. Tonight is soccer Senior Night for my son and I am stunned to think that we have so quickly arrived at this point.
A part of me, the part that wept at home on the day he became a teen, is approaching this day with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart. On some level, it feels like a loss. A lifetime of soccer games behind us, his time on that field is finishing. It is the beginning of so many lasts in the midst of a life that has celebrated so many firsts. And on a day as momentous as today, those firsts just keep washing over me again and again and again. Precious memories of all that he has learned to do flash quickly past as he smiles, runs his hand through his hair, shares a story, kicks a ball. Ordinary moments inextricably linked to a lifetime of experiences that I got to share with my son.
There is a sadness to it.
A sadness I intend to set aside.
Because, I am deeply aware that the moments I have mourned in the life of my boy have often led to amazing new things. He turned 13 and became even more of the man who stands before me today. In the years since that momentous birthday, he discovered a passion for math and science and that has brought him to a place where he is painting a bright future for himself today. After he turned 13, he grew in his abilities, his independence, his faith. And it has been my privilege to watch this happen in our home.
What was I thinking on his thirteenth birthday, mourning what would never occur?
Tonight, we will celebrate my son. The parents of the seniors will take the field, (a place my boys have warned me to never step should they fall injured in the midst of a game) and we will share that sacred space with our son on one arm and flowers in the other. Someone will read a bit about his accomplishments and we will smile and I will try not to cry because the truth is, this experience is something more complex than sad.
It is the beginning what comes next.
And it is a time to celebrate how amazing this part has been.
Because it has been amazing. He first took that field as a freshman on varsity, 100 lbs soaking wet and in the midst of growth spurt that began just in time. He made that team with friends who had played together for years, each knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the others. As each season began, he learned to take the hits, play fast and fun, rely on his teammates and fight to the goal. He found value in selfless passes and was grateful when he landed his shot. My boy found joy in playing when life was perfect and he found perseverance to continue when things fell apart. He celebrated with teams that could not lose and grew discouraged with others that could not win. This year, he got to play alongside his little brother, offering the same give and go they have practiced for a lifetime in our own yard. And he has donned his uniform more times than I can count over the past 4 years, always nodding at me in the stands as I desperately tried to stay warm... or dry... or cool in the autumn extremes.
We got to live this together! And, he has stored up four years of experiences that are marked by his effort, his friends, his love for this great game.
And it is good.
So, I don't know what next year looks like. But that is not a question for today. On this one night, I want to remember to learn from my mistakes and not mourn a loss that may not come. I want to mark this night with a smile on my face knowing that my son has come a very long way and gained so much wisdom and has truly used this time to grow into the man he is. And, the truth is, we've had fun.
It is not sad, you see?
Instead, Senior Night can be an opportunity to revel in the joy of being his momma and the wonder found in watching him grow. It is a chance to stand by his side and celebrate these good years and all the memories he made.
Yep, I choose that.
Because what is to come might be different, but life with my boy has taught me that different is not bad. It can, in fact, mark the beginning a new and amazing path.
This, I am eager to see...
Blessings on your day.