I cannot believe this day has arrived – the day I have simultaneously anticipated and dreaded. The little boy who made me a mother, who screamed himself hoarse on the first night home from the hospital and caused me years of grief with his beloved iron will is now 18, all grown up and making final preparations for his impending flight from the nest.
Months, not years, are all that I have left before the dynamic of our family morphs into something that I cannot yet fully grasp. And I have feelings: lots of big feelings.
While I could write a novel about my experience with this boy and how it has largely made me into the person and mother I am today, I will spare you the soliloquy. Instead, I am going to talk directly to him and invite you to read along.
I remember well the day that you joined our family, a perfect little bundle of joy. While I was young, inexperienced, and naive, I could not have been happier to hold you in my arms and dream about what you would grow up to become.
It was apparent from day one that you came to this earth with a mind of your own. You were perceptive beyond measure. You knew how you wanted things and refused to accept anything less, especially from yourself.
With your innate perfectionistic tendencies, intelligence, and musicality that were all manifested within the first few months your life, I knew that I would have my hands full. You initially gave me a run for my money and caused me to question what I could possibly teach you (because you thought you already knew everything) and how I would ever be able to help you mold your stubborn persistence into something worthwhile.
There were many days when I secretly questioned the Lord’s decision to send you to me because I felt so unqualified to teach you how to behave, let alone how to become a contributing member of society. But, many times, when I was at my wit’s end and had no idea how I was going to get up and work with you again the next day, the Lord mercifully sent His Spirit to whisper in my ear, reminding me of your potential and the stature of your spirit:
“You can’t see it now,” He would say, “but this child is going to do incredible things. I sent him to you with a strong will because he will need it to accomplish the mission that I have prepared for him. You have no idea how lucky you are to be his mother.”
Those gentle reminders are what kept me going through the long days that stretched into months and years.
While those early experiences with you are still etched into my memory, they have been overshadowed in recent times with quiet observations of your evolution to greatness. Your stubborn “I must always be right and perfect” nature has softened into teachable humility.
Your tender heart that sees and reaches out to those who are struggling, even when it requires great personal sacrifice, is nothing short of inspiring. Your love of God and others is written all over your countenance.
Your intelligence blows me away, yet you do not let it go to your head. I guess your head is already filled with things like multivariable calculus. While I’m sure you got most of your smarts from me, I begrudgingly admit that this particular part of your genius must have come from Dad. (Surprising, I know.)
The work ethic that you have developed through passing 12 AP exams with flying colors (so far) is going to serve you in ways that you cannot yet understand. And waking yourself up (nearly) every day at 5:00 am with very little complaint for the past four years, so that you could attend early morning seminary, tells me more about your character than you realize.
Your patience with your younger siblings makes a huge difference in our home. They are fortunate to have such a good example for a big brother. Except when it comes to cleaning your bedroom. You might want to work on that just a tiny bit. (Hint, hint)
And let’s not even talk about your musical prowess, or I may lose my composure. The beautiful music that has filled our home because of your talent will be one of the things that I miss the most when you leave.
You and I may have gotten off to a rocky start 18 years ago, but I can say with 100% confidence that I feel blessed beyond measure to be your mother. Watching your gradual transformation from perfectionistic and challenging child to humble, kind, and driven young adult has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.
I know I have not been a perfect mother; far from it. But I will be forever grateful that the Lord took a chance on me as a young, newly married woman 18 years ago by sending you to me.
I feel like I have often been more of a student than a teacher through this process, learning how to be more like the Savior by observing the light that emanates from your very being. No matter what happens after you embark on your post high school adventure, do whatever it takes to keep that light. It will lead you to accomplish amazing things.
Now, let me just say that I know your high school career has been stuffed full of college-level academics and their accompanying stress, sometimes at the expense of other things. It has been a tough road, and I know that you regret parts of it because you feel like you missed out on some of your childhood at the hands of education.
Knowing what we know now, we both may have made different educational decisions for you if we could go back and do it again. However, I want you to remember that knowledge is never wasted. It is something that will enrich your life and the lives of those with whom you associate again and again.
Not only that, but life does not end with high school; it begins. You have a world of opportunities and experiences ahead of you that you can now scarcely imagine.
Look forward with hope and anticipation, not backward with regret. Your experiences have prepared you well for the future and all of its complexity. Of this, I am sure.
At this point, I want to give you a bit of advice as you prepare for the next important chapter in your life because that is my job as your mother:
1. Stay close to the Lord.
2. Don’t be stupid.
3. If you are unsure of how to proceed, refer to numbers one and two.
I am confident that you were born to lead and I can’t wait to see what you do with your immense talent and unlimited potential. Please know that I love you with all of my heart and will always be here for you, no matter what. My relationship with you is one of my most prized possessions.
I am beyond lucky to be your mom. Happy 18th Birthday!
Love you most (in a non-Mother Gothel sort of way),