When I was his age, I used to write inspiring words on notebook paper. I’d carry a pen and notebook with me throughout my day, and each night, I’d rest each one next to me on my nightstand, just in case I’d wake with inspiration.
Twenty-six years later, I still carry words I adore in my heart. I still (sometimes) find time to write some of them on paper. Often, inspirations filter in and slip away before I can find the time in my day to record them.
These days, in the thick of parenting with quickly growing boys, I take comfort in inspiring words of encouragement and affirmations I can offer my 14-year-old son. He may not yet know the largeness of these messages, but my hope is that over time these truths will settle in to build this young man into the amazing human he’s becoming.
Fourteen is such an in-between stage.
The last year of middle school, a place where so many interpersonal and intrapersonal changes happen. The lingering space where he’s almost out of the middle but not quite at the final stretch of high school.
A girl from my high school shared a photo from Hobby Lobby the other day and referenced the quote her basketball coach used to tell her team, “It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play.” Instantly when I read this, I knew these simple, yet powerful words were meant for my teenage son, right now in this precious stage he finds himself. Smack dab in the middle of his eighth-grade basketball season, I ordered the quote sign and surprised him by hanging it next to his bathroom mirror where he can take in this message every time he stands before himself.
Eighth grade is awkward, yet exciting.
It’s a place where your peers start sprouting up at different paces. A place where fitting in becomes like the air you breathe. A place where you start noticing things you never paid much attention to before.
This year I have watched my son take notice of his body in comparison to his teammates, his growth in comparison to them, and how he measures up, where he fits in body-wise and ability-wise on his sports teams. Eighth grade is a time for taking in the message of being no longer a little boy, but not quite fitting into the category of being a man, not just yet.
These teen years stir a heightened energy within me that feels familiar—it takes me back to my own teenhood.
I notice him noticing changes, and I offer him my open heart and kind words.
I remind him of just how big he plays when he’s out there with his team. I remind him of the qualities he holds that the world needs now more than ever: empathy, leadership, kindness. He holds all of this and so much more.
Sometimes when I go to hug my little boy, I am met with the arms of an almost man hugging me back and when I turn to walk away I know with certainty that he will be his own man before either of us even know it.
Originally published on the author’s Facebook page