Yesterday I sat at my dining room table across from my 16-year-old, watching him wrap a Christmas present. I indulged myself and stared at him while he wasn’t looking, and I’ll admit: I was a little in awe. He’s always been a great kid, but as I took him in, his grown-upness just felled me. The curve of his hair over his forehead, his long fingers holding the wrapping paper taut. He’s still a child, but he has a man’s voice and body. How have we arrived here so quickly? It boggles my mothering mind.

Suddenly, he noticed me looking. “What?” he said in that teenage way.

“Nothing,” I replied with a small smile. “I just like you.”

And I do. 

Then today, I heard a song by singer-songwriter Lori McKenna. It’s a letter to her children called When You’re My Age, and like my glimpse of my son’s impending adulthood, McKenna’s song felled me, too. I was a Puddle. Of. Tears. Here’s a snippet:

When you’re my age
You’ll still be full of questions
That I wish I had the answers to right now
And those dark times might make you second guess it
But I bet love will still be making the world go ’round
 
When I was your age, I didn’t worry like I think you do
Back then innocence was something you could hold onto
 
You’ll outgrow your shoes
You’ll outgrow your bed
You’ll outgrow this house
Just don’t forget
When you’re all grown up
But you don’t feel that way
You’re still gonna be my baby
Even when you’re my age

This set of lyrics made my eyes fill with tears, because my global pandemic-surviving children have it pretty rough now. And in the age of technology and social media, their childhoods aren’t nearly as carefree and innocent as mine was. Innocence is so much harder to hold on to, indeed.

As I listened to When You’re My Age on repeat, I was inspired to write some words of my own to my kids who are now 16, 14, and 10.

To My Children,

Your 43-year-old mom is so sorry you are having to go through so many hard things right now. This year, you’ve had responsibilities placed on you that no child should have. You’ve had to think about not only your own safety but protecting your whole family from COVID-19 every time you leave the house. You’ve had to give up parties and summer camps and simple hang outs. You’ve had to hear me say “no” more times this year than in all of your years combined.

Being a teenager is hard, especially now. But adulting is hard, too. And when you’re my age, I pray it will be easier for you, but I know you’ll rise to the occasion, come what may. And I’ll be there if you need me. 

You see, when you’re my age, you will think you should have all the answers. Spoiler alert: you won’t.

The future will hold its own unique challenges for you, ones I can’t even imagine, I am sure. I know my own parents never imagined all the challenges I’d have to face keeping you safe on the internet…what technology will you use that I currently can’t even fathom?

I don’t know the answer to that, just like I don’t know the answer to why 2020 has been so hard. Why did this all have to happen? Will life ever be “normal” again?

Here’s what I do know, my loves: I am always, always, always here for you. You may not need me, but you will have me in your corner. Whether you are 14 or 43, you will always be my baby, and I’ll always be your biggest advocate.

Right now, it’s a struggle for me not to hold on to you too tight. Yes, I miss you being little, but I want you to know that I love and enjoy the you you are right now, right this minute so very much. You truly amaze me and fill me with pride every day. Just because you’re not dependent on me for your every need doesn’t mean I love you any less, and although it’s been hard for me to realize, I know it doesn’t mean you love me any less, either.

Your growing up is hard for both of us, but dang it, it’s beautiful. So remember: be who you are right this moment, but when you need to be a kid, be a kid while you still can. Because…

When you’re all grown up
But you don’t feel that way
You’re still gonna be my baby
Even when you’re my age

Love,

Mom

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Jenny Rapson

Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.