To my special boy on your 13th birthday - you told me a while ago that you have a hard time in this world that isn’t made for you. I said “But you’re amazing, I learn so much from you!” In disbelief, you asked me for examples. I promised I would write a letter to you. So here are just a few of the beautiful things I have learned from being lucky enough to be your mom:
Follow Your Passions
Someone recently pointed out to me that I spent my life doing all the things I was expected to do, rather than knowing what I wanted to do, which doesn’t make life feel very fulfilling. She suggested that I look at you and how you follow your passions. You know what you like and what you don’t like, and no one can change that. That is something I admire about you - you find such interesting topics that hardly anyone else notices- like city streets and local wonders - and you dream up such creative ways to showcase them. And you do it with all of your heart. I remember when you saw a euphonium at school and decided that was the instrument for you because no one else had heard of it - and then you saw it in a store window and took off playing and learning and composing - all from your passion! I know that your beautiful passions will take you far and let you soar as you share them with anyone lucky enough to be in your orbit.
Surround Yourself With People Who Deserve You
There are so many social conventions that cause people to spend time together - commitments, requirements, expectations - that I ended up spending time with people who weren’t lifting me up. You told me “You have to be special to be my friend because I am special. Not just anyone gets to be my friend.” I took that to heart because you are right. How many of us spend time with people who don’t make us feel good or who drain our energy? But you don’t do that - you know who you want around you and you attract people with big hearts. I am learning to do the same.
Don’t Let People Shut Down Your Ideas
So many times you have ideas that I don’t think are possible - like when you wanted to 3D print a model of Earth for your class and I told you that it wouldn’t work and that there wasn’t enough time. Well guess what - you made a model of Earth and it was amazing! Most people have a thought process about what can’t happen, why things aren’t possible - instead, you see a world of possibilities. You can sew a stuffed animal, compose a musical piece, design new trading cards, 3D print from your imagination - things I would have told you are not possible! But you do them! You are someone who makes dreams into reality.
Find Validation From Within Yourself
Related to not having people tell you your ideas can’t work - you have a strength to try things that are unconventional, to question why things are the way they are and why we have to do them, to not follow the trends just because everyone else is doing them. You look within yourself to decide if your idea is worth your time, rather than to others. This is something that I am only learning now, decades older than you. I spent my life looking for external validation which can lead to a sense of unhappiness, as you always want to please others. Seeing your way of handling this has freed me to try new things that I couldn’t picture doing before. Instead of expending so much energy trying to blend in, I’m learning it’s ok to be yourself and stand out. And if people don’t like it, they don’t deserve my time. I am learning that from you. This includes parenting decisions - that kids should do certain activities or behave a certain way. I have learned to stop comparing and instead focus on what makes you happy.
Seek the Joy in Small Wonders
As you know, I love to travel to faraway places and seek out large wonders. I appreciate that you have adventured alongside me, even when it wasn’t your first choice. But you don’t require a large wonder to find awe, you find it in the smallest wonders - a statue someone has placed in their garden, an interesting street name, a peculiar plant, a plane flying overhead, a bike ride to your favorite neighborhood. During the pandemic when I was forced to fulfill my wonder-seeking locally, I learned from you that there is wonder everywhere, if you know how to look for it.
You told me you don’t think you’re brave, because brave people aren’t scared. But I think the very definition of brave is facing something you are afraid of, and doing it anyway. I watch your bravery as you go to school, with all of the overwhelm that it can bring you, and you do it anyway. You find your own methods to overcome the difficulty. You face it on a daily basis. And when we go to new places or try new things, and there are legitimate reasons for you to be anxious, you still try. I think about your bravery when I have to do something I’m scared of - like giving a talk in front of a big group of people. I think to myself “He faces things bravely every day, so I can do this!”
I hope you feel proud of yourself. You have taught me, and everyone around you, so much about what it means to be your true self. You are you, you are not what people or society say you should be. It is not an easy thing to be oneself. This is a superpower - even if it feels hard now - it will make special things happen in your life. I can’t wait to see what they are as you become an official teenager and beyond. I’m so lucky I get to be on your journey with you. So is everyone who gets to share a small piece of your journey. I hope you never forget that.
All my love,
(Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94697672@N00)