YOU ARE THIRTEEN!!! So here comes a belated thirteenth letter. I started writing you a birthday letter when you were two, so I went back and read that love letter.
I loved picking out the characteristics that still so define each of you. For S, I wrote, “You are persistent and stick with things until you understand them.” If I could select any trait for you, persistence is it. Others remark on your ability to work through the hardest challenges and not give up. This will serve you well your whole life.
For L, in addition to your zest of life, I wrote, “You are also very independent.” Ha! It’s still utterly true and will carry you to great success because of your focus and ability to strike out on your own away from the crowd. No matter the pressures you face, please hold on to your ability to find and know your own way.
And W, I wrote about your sensitive soul, but also remarked, “We will always be seekers in our home, on a journey to learn and understand more, because of you.” You are curious. It’s a trait that can’t be taught and one that will take you to new adventure because of your love of learning. Please don’t lose this when you have a tough school year.
I’ll warn you, I’ve back dated this letter. I’m writing it in December instead of on October 2nd like usual. Turns out, it’s much harder to write with wisdom and advice for 13 year olds than it was for toddlers.
This led me to look back on the more recent letters. For your tenth it was more a recap of all we’ve been through for 10 years and less insightful advice. Your 11th year love letter is my favorite because it recaps all of the highlights of the prior years. I wrote:
For S: I’ll close with my five year old love letter words, “I love how you march to the beat of your own drummer.” May it always be so. But know that wherever you march, daddy and I will always be there to cheer you on.
For L: I’ll close with a note from your three year old letter: You are fierce. So independent. Strong willed. So focused…You will face battles and challenges in your life my beloved, but you will stare them down and they will shake as you approach. You are so brave and fearless. I love that. The most remarkable thing about your strength is that it carries as its companion empathy and nurturing.
For W: I penned this at three years old, and I close with it now, “Your absolute delight in living fills up any space you invade. And there’s never any doubt about your love for everything you encounter because you tell us in no uncertain terms what you … It is a revelation to watch the world through your eyes. You are already becoming a man of honor…”
Why am I relying on words from years past?
Because the older you get, the more I realize I don’t know. And the more I realize the window is closing with time I have you here. There’s so much I want to tell you. So much I want you to know when you leave our home.
I know you’ll have to learn it for yourself. But the mom in me, well I can’t help but want to help. I’m also learning that I’ll be able to do less and less of that. Don’t get me wrong – dad and I are ALWAYS here and ready to support and encourage and pick you up. But we actually help you through the things you face less now than when you were younger.
You’re a teenager! I can’t even believe it. Don’t believe all that buzz about how teenagers are hard and have to fight with their parents and rebel. You are awesome! Yes, we have our conflicts, and we have and will continue to have them. We also have a fantastic relationship. Your dad and I love hanging out with you guys. Traveling with you and experiencing new foods and cultures and sights. I hope we will be able to experience new things together our whole lives.
I also know that these teen years are ones where you’ll need to pull away and set boundaries that make you your own person with your own beliefs and plans.
During these times, when you’re deciding what it means to be you, I’d ask you to think about these three things:
1. Treasure your faith. When you were young, you made a personal decision to follow Jesus. This was a precious step of faith. Increasingly, being a person of the Christian faith isn’t a popular decision. And you’ve been in a bubble of a school where your faith is not questioned. As you move to high school, your faith will face storms. Heck, it already has. Your relationship with Jesus is between you and him. Don’t let it be governed by politics or media or tv preachers. Grow it personally. Question it, struggle with it, push and pull through the issues you face (the Bible tells us to work out our faith with fear and trembling – God gets that faith is hard and it’s a journey). But don’t lose it. After all I’ve been through now for nearly 5 decades, I can tell you I wouldn’t have made it without the centering love, power, and grace of God. Hold on to this.
2. Choose your friends wisely. We have been gifted with an incredible community. You have adults and peers who you’ve grown up with, who you deeply know and who deeply know you. It is a rare gift. Friendships in your teen years change. That’s okay. As they change, be discerning. Choose people who are kind and honest and make, more often than not, good decisions. These next five years, friendships will be absolutely critical in the places you go and decisions you make.
3. Make your own decisions. This is a natural counterpart to #2. Each of you often are your own person, marching to the beat of your own drummer, and setting out on your own path. However, that gets harder. Over the years to come, people will make decisions that look fun but are wrong, or are wrong for you. People will pressure you to make choices to be part of the crowd. I know this advice sounds like an old person who doesn’t “get it,” but I do. These pressures still occur as an adult. I believe the most intense of this pressure occurs over the coming years for you though. Remember who you are. What you believe in. What your priorities are. Make decisions that are best for you not the ones to be a part of the crowd. You’ll always have support from your faith and your family.
I closed out your 12th birthday letter with a thanks. A thanks for being you. That still holds true today. But I guess I’d also close out with this: forge your own path. Be brave. Hold onto your faith. Love boldly. Speak truth. Show respect. Add to the good in the world. You already have.
All my love (and sorry this year’s letter was SO long), always, Mom.