My son, you are 12 years old. You are a young boy in the last days before you become a young man.
You are a boy fully realized, having reached the summit of childhood. You can read fat books, catch fly balls, and ride your bike to your friends’ houses.
You still get excited about Pokémon cards and Nintendo games. You still want LEGO sets for your birthday and Christmas even though you enjoy them more for the building and delight of owning them than for the playing. You still wrestle and sword fight with your little brother.
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You are never happier than when you are playing baseball or football or ultimate frisbee, coming back caked with mud and sweat and triumphant smiles. You are fiercely competitive, but you take your losses in stride. You still have hopes and dreams for each at-bat, believing that this one will be the home run.
The big trend in your class is competing in paper football. Your friends call you on Saturday morning to play Minecraft. Most of the shows you like are still cartoons.
Yes, there are signs that this era is ending, signs that you are growing up. You are taking on some leadership roles at school and church, seeming almost surprised to be one of the older ones. There is an occasional flash of moodiness but overcome almost at once by your usual sweetness. You like a girl, but are content to be around each other and be friends.
I ache for you to stay this way—ache with the mother’s heart that remembers your jolly baby laugh and your tiny body curled in my arms. I remember looking at you one night in your toddler bed and being overcome with the gift of your existence. I remember you coming into my room on the day your brother was to be born and telling me, “I will take care of you, Mommy.”
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Your sisters are teenagers already, but I have everything to learn about raising teenage boys. You will teach me, just as you taught me the sweetness of being a boy mom long ago. I know you will change, but I pray your innocence and enthusiasm will mature but not be extinguished.
That one ordinary night when you were lying in your toddler bed, I told myself I would take a mental picture of that moment to keep forever. Somehow, I did—I can still see you lying there and feel what I felt then. I want to do the same with this fall day—you, happy and content on the baseball field with the backdrop of the autumn hills.
You are 12. There are both so many precious memories and so much to look forward to. But for now, I just want to be here in this moment with you.