You greet me with a warm smile and “Hi Mom.” The next day, with a gruff “You don’t need to talk to me every day.” You laugh uncontrollably with friends at a pizza joint, your eyes sparkling with delight. You erupt in anger, breaking pencils and hurling them across the room. You rave about stew. You complain about mac and cheese. You’re of age for PG-13 movies and Instagram. You’re over the recommended age limit for a Slip ‘n’ Slide. You enthusiastically encourage me to bowl with you. You scold me for taking a sip of your Coke because your friends might see. You laugh at Zootopia. You’re curious about Deadpool. When I reach my hand over and rest it above your knee or on your shoulder, in the car, or on the couch, you let it linger for a bit—a couple blocks, a few seconds. Sometimes you fling or shrug it off immediately.
Even the way you say “Mom” is changing. I’m becoming keenly aware of the nuances, your varied tones providing insight into your feelings and outlook. Your inflection reveals everything. Sometimes it’s an urgent “Mom, mom, mom!” for “Do we have more AA batteries for the Xbox controller?” Other times it’s a thoughtful “Mom…” that trails off, ready to open up and share a little something about your day. “Mom?” lets me in when you want to point out the differences between the Rawlings and Wilson gloves. It’s “Mom!!!” when you’re wondering “Is my orange t-shirt clean?” “Mom.” simply confirms my presence in the next room.
I gauge the subtleties and search your face for clues, so I can offer the right response. Asking a question after “Mom!!!” is futile, but after “Mom…” can lead to a meaningful conversation. I’m learning to follow your lead, to not push too hard as you meander through this time of ups and downs, highs and lows, mountains and valleys.
I know that soon the teetering will become a full-fledged plunge and you’ll find yourself immersed in your teenage years—years that will bring changes and challenges. Any day now your voice will deepen. You’ll no longer be at eye level.
My wish for you as you turn thirteen is this: that you will experience more of that sidesplitting laughter, finding joy in people and relationships.
Laugh ‘til it hurts.
With the world.
(Just not at your brother.)
My prayer, as it’s been throughout the spring, is that you will be strong, firm and steadfast.
And finally, know this: I will continue to reach my hand over.
In the car.
On the couch.
Maybe in the backyard.
Whether you fling or shrug it off, or let it rest for a minute, may it say to you on some level, no matter what your age:
I love you.
With all my heart,