I look at you, son, standing eye to eye, and I want to say I can’t believe you’re turning 13 . . . but I can.

You blew out your candles last night, turned around, hoisted me into the air in front of everyone, and high-fived me.

You passed me this year, just slightly taller. We grin and laugh about it, but in my heart I think, I’m so glad you’re growing kind, too. That you use your strength to lift heavy boxes and to carry your baby sister.

Your blonde hair, dirtier now than the white-gold I remember, is waving and curling around your ears.

I see your bald head as a baby and tears trickle down my cheeks as I giggle and remember how I waited two years for your hair to grow. When it did, I didn’t want to cut a single one of those dancing curls. I still have some of them in a plastic bag tucked in a box in the attic.

But it’s your smile that catches me, your wide grin stretching across your face, and your curls are like rays of sunshine beaming from that smile. I hear your bubbling giggle as you belly laugh at your own silliness and invite us to laugh with you, the 2-year-old boy in his pajamas bobbing his head as he dances through the white farmhouse where we used to live.

“Mommy, will you play with me?” You asked repeatedly as I attempted to wash dishes or make dinner, and I recall that voice in my head reminding me that, “The days are long, but the years are short.” I’m so glad I said yes so many times, even for 15 minutes, to play with you and your John Deere “dadoos” (tractors) or Fisher Price parking garage. We would go outside and you would run your Matchbox cars over the mountain of a dirt pile leftover from a house project.

You never wanted to sit still unless it was to listen to a story, so we read lots of books by Richard Scarry and Go, Dog, Go and Goodnight Gorilla and More, More, More Said the Baby because I wanted to cuddle you as close as I could for as long as you’d let me.

Those were the days when I could keep up with each new vocabulary word, the brief window of time before the flood of language enveloped you and carried you down rivers to oceans of words and concepts and comprehension of meanings of things. I could barely keep up, and then I lost my grip in that flood. I used to know every new book, each new show, and then you began reading and watching without me and your world expanded to realms beyond what I could experience with you.

When your brother was born, I didn’t know how my love could multiply to embrace both of you. The older and wiser moms kept telling me it would. What I latched on to was the idea that you and your brother were gifts to each other, and oh how you are! Your strengths and weaknesses balance one another and you stretch each other. You think in tandem. You brainstorm and build and run together. Your bond of brotherhood runs so deep.

Now I can’t pretend to keep up with your ideas and theories, “what ifs” and “have you ever” thoughts, but I can see the worlds you create as you put your pencil to paper and unleash your imagination through art. You give me a window into the breadth of your mind that races so much faster than mine.

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As my mommy-brain grasps for memories to hold onto, seeks to go back and retrieve moments, I’m surprised by the mundane. Those routines, the repetition, was for me as well as for you.

All those onesies I washed and folded and placed in your closet before you were born, the kisses good-night and bedtime stories, the countless walks to the park (pushes on the swing and slides down the sliding board), the jogs in the jogging stroller and the rides in the red wagon, those sunlit afternoons in the dirt pile and the birthday cakes we made together—those were all for both of us. For me and you. Together.

Those moments, somehow simultaneously so short and so long, are gifts. Together they make up memories. But even more, it’s in those moments that you became the young man I see standing before me today. And I feel so privileged and blessed to walk this journey with you.

Thank you, son. You are a gift.

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When He’s 13

When Your Daughter Turns 13

Katie Faris

Katie Faris is married to Scott, and her greatest works in progress are their five children ages 2 to 13. She is the author of Loving My Children: Embracing Biblical Motherhood. You can read more of Katie’s words on her blog.