To my littlest cub,
In two days, you turn thirteen.
Thirteen. I can’t seem to wrap my brain around this number. I’d even say with conviction, that I’ve been in absolute denial about it.
There are so many things I want and wish for you and as you age, they seem further and further from our reach.
The thirteenth birthday party is supposed to be about becoming a teenager and all that comes with that. On the horizon for most thirteen year olds are trips to the movies with friends, first crushes/dates/kisses, school dances, picking out classes, joining middle school sports teams, and the beginning of pushing away from your parents while you find your own voice, independence, and purpose in the world.
When your brother turned thirteen, he was so excited to get his own Facebook account and to have a big trip to an indoor trampoline park with his best friends. As I struggled to plan your thirteenth birthday party, I kept comparing it to his, even though I know I shouldn’t. We pulled out all the stops to make the “officially becoming a teenager” birthday a big deal for your big brother and I wanted the same for you.
But you and I both know what you want. You want a small affair with just family. And you still want train sets and Playmobil or Fisher Price zoo sets. And I am okay with that. I’m pretty sure after your party tomorrow when we give you your gifts, you will officially own every single Playmobil set ever made that features animals. Because that is what makes you happy and there is nothing more that I want, than for you to be happy.
Thirteen. Teenage-hood seems to make parents’ brains start swimming about adulthood. Or maybe that’s just me. But when your older brother turned thirteen, I began thinking about high school and getting nervous thinking about him getting his driver’s license. I started thinking about the short amount of time together before he jetted off to college. I often imagine what he’ll decide upon for a major and if he’ll find a meaningful career. I imagine who he’ll fall in love with. I wonder if he’ll move far away or settle down nearby and I wonder if someday, hopefully a long long time from now, he’ll decide to be a Dad.
This past week, your stepdad and I started putting together plans for our new attached garage. And with that, we began designing your apartment that is going to be on the second floor of that garage. We hope you’ll live in it after you graduate high school, seven years from now (as you probably know, you’ll most likely stay in high school until you are twenty). We want you to have choices too and we want you to have as much independence as possible. But even the attached in-law apartment brought up fears of if you would be ready for that or not. We sat there deciding how to make the entrance to the apartment safe and only viable through our home, door alarms we’ll need, modifications in the kitchen, and baby monitors we’ll need to purchase. And I was in tears, thinking that it was the week before your thirteenth birthday and this was what we were doing. For you, teenage-hood means we have to plan around things such as special needs trusts, gathering information about adult services, and legal guardianship.
I want you to have dreams. I want you to be able to venture off on your own someday. I want you to find a meaningful career. I want you to find love, fall out of love, and find love again. I want you to know the joy of becoming a parent. But a lot of those things, most likely aren’t going to be attainable for you. I refuse to say impossible, because I never want to put limits on you. But we both know that there is a lot of work and progress that needs to happen in the future to meet some of those goals others take for granted as simply a part of growing up.
I hate that when I’m writing these words, I’m already thinking about the people who will undoubtedly read these words and think I’m terrible for being such a pessimist. Terrible for comparing my children. Terrible for not feeling blessed with the cards life dealt me. Judging me and saying I’m less of a Mom because I wish life was different for you. Those people just don’t understand.
I know you know how much I love you. How much I cherish you. How much pure joy you bring to my life every single day, even those days filled with meltdowns. I know you know how much I will fight for you and knock down walls for you to succeed. I know you’ve seen the fire in my eyes when someone tries to tell me you can’t or they won’t make a place for you in their programs. I know you know I will be your biggest cheerleader and your fearless advocate every single day of my life. I know you know how I truly and utterly love every single part of you with every single ounce of my being. I will continue to love you with that intensity regardless if you stay the same, progress, or regress. I am your Mama Bear.
Happy thirteenth birthday sweet boy. I will continue to love you just as you are and still wish for a life devoid of all the obstacles you have been dealt. I will continue to love you just as you are and still wish for an easier path for you. I will continue to love you just as you are and still wish for MORE for you. It’s not one or the other. It’s because I love you with such ferocity, that I am able to do so.
Love always, Mama Bear.