Eleven years ago I became a mother for the first time. I was 25 years old and had been married for just over a year. We owned our own home, a 2 bedroom bungalow with a charming front porch that your father built. Once we had you, John, everything was complete. You were the light of our lives and our days consisted of watching your every move, listening for your every little sigh and basking in the beauty that was your face.
You just turned 11 and as the cliche goes, it seems like yesterday that you were a baby that I could cradle in the nook of my right arm. When I hug you now you patiently put up with me, unless your friends are around and then physical contact, except in extreme cases, is sorely off limits. The past two years in North Carolina have been wrought with change. We quickly discovered that to be cool, you must have long hair. Long, blonde hair, to be exact. We tried, John, we really did, but you are destined to be a brunette. The hair mishap was a turning point for me. Helping you change the color of your hair was the beginning of me releasing you into the world of making your own choices. I'm still learning how to do this.
As the oldest of three boys, you fall into the leader roll quite often. Learning to temper that roll with kindness and grace is something that I have watched you develop. You are patient and kind to your brothers. They look to you for guidance and comfort. They seek your approval and attention. In short, you are the person that they want to be like.You are moving from the "little guy" stage into the "young man" stage. It could not have been more clear to me as it was last summer. I watched you during surf camp and thought a lot about the boys that you were choosing to align yourself with. They were all older than you. I wanted to stop time and reverse it right then and there. I wanted to yell, "Don't forget your shovel and pail!" but you were long gone from being interested in shovels and pails. You exchanged beach toys for surf boards and child chatter for adult conversation.
The introduction of the dirt bikes was another adjustment for me. Dirt bikes equal speed. Speed equals danger. Danger equals fear for mothers. The day that you told me, "Mom, I want to be a professional dirt bike rider" was an interesting one for me. I thought back to a story I had heard about the Olympic skier, Johnny Mosley. He had a terrible habit of jumping off the roof of his parents home. Naturally this concerned his parents. They decided right then and there that Johnny could not be stopped and instead of discouraging him because of their fear, they would encourage him. They bought him a trampoline to land on.
Bruises, scrapes and possibly broken bones is what can happen to you from persuing the things that you love, but I will not be the reason that you don't persue your dreams. You will just have to bear with the public displays of motherly affection should any of the above things happen.
Happy Birthday, John. I am so proud of not only who you are, but what you are choosing to be.