I almost feel like I could just post this, and it would cover us for the year. I have more selfies with you than with anyone else. And we look this happy in every single one. Not excited or silly or enthusiastic. Just you+me=happy.
I love how happy we still are together and how snugly, even now. But of course I’m not just going to leave it at that. I am me, after all.
I know 11 doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. I know it’s just one year since ten, sort of a place-holder between the double digits and the coming teen ages. Still, this one year has been the biggest leap yet.
Honestly, I don’t have words for the way you’ve grown up this year. For how you think about things. For how smart your jokes are. For how tight a grip you keep on your ever-intense emotions. For how you talk with your Papi. For how seriously you take your life. It’s probably for the best that I don’t put it into a lot of words. They’d just be embarrassing, and really there’s no need. Let’s just say this: I see you changing into someone who is still you but…more. And I like that person so much.
Most of what you need to know in life, you’re learning from your Papi. How to work hard and tell the truth and analyze television and take a hit from a baseball and take criticism and control your tears and control your ego and know the difference between a puppers and a doggo. He loves you, and even more, he likes you and respects you, and there’s not much that you’ll ever need beyond that. That’s why I’m not going to try to give you advice. I’m just going to tell you a couple of things, mom things I guess you could call them, that I want you to know as you move toward turning twelve (and even after that).
First, I know there is a lot going on in your head these days that you don’t put into words. That’s okay. You don’t have to. You’re pretty good at talking when you need to, and you’re surrounded by so many people who love you, people your age and people mine, who can listen when you want to speak. Just know that even when you don’t say what you’re thinking, I see you. I notice what you do and I pay attention to what you don’t say and I hear what’s between the lines. I don’t claim to know what you feel or to always understand you, but you are never as alone as you think you are. I see you and I feel with you and I’m in your corner. Always. I’m your mom, so that’s what I get to do for you, even after you don’t need me to make your dinner and remind you to brush your teeth.
Second, your failures are going to take you farther than your successes ever could. The sucky thing about growing up is that it constantly brings you up against your weaknesses. Suddenly you discover the things you aren’t really good at. You see others succeed where you fail. You run into more and more things you don’t know. You screw up and blow up and don’t measure up. The evil in your heart gets the better of you sometimes, and now you’re old enough to actually know when it’s happening. It sucks. It’s also the best thing that could ever happen to you. Each time you are forced to admit that you are weak, you get the chance to rely on God’s strength. And when the power of the God who made the universe is flowing through you, He does awesome things. Things that you’d be too proud and selfish to do if you never found out your limitations.
So, look. You’re my kid. And you’re Papi’s kid. So believe me, I know you want to be perfect. I know you are good at so many things that you’d really just like to keep being good at all of them. I know when you find out you aren’t, it cuts deep. Just know that admitting your weakness and owning your failure is always the best and most mature thing you can do (so mature that most adults can’t handle it). Know that being perfect isn’t the goal, not just because you can’t attain it but because it’s not worth attaining. And know that even when your failures are totally your fault and you should have done better, God isn’t surprised or disappointed or loving you any less. And neither am I.
Which leads to the last thing: I could not love you more than I do, or be more proud of who you are. Just keep doing your thing, okay? Go ahead and move forward and help people and learn from people and talk and listen and question and explore and tell jokes and play ball in the street and put your headphones in and turn the music way up. You’re going to have an amazing life, and if it starts to take you farther away from me, don’t worry. That’s the way the story goes, the way it ought to go. You grow. You change. We change.
What doesn’t change (and here’s where I get sappy, but I mean this as literally as a metaphor can be meant) is that everywhere you go you’re carrying my love with you. It will just be there in the background, a small light so that no night is ever completely dark, a small voice whispering the truth against the lies that come your way. You are loved, completely and forever. And though I’m speaking for myself today, you are loved by more than just me. As you define who you’re going to be, that will always be a part. Ewan Scott Dunlevy, the one who is loved.
I love you, buddy.