Tomorrow, my precious first born turns twelve years old, and there is a whole lot of me with a whole lot of feelings about it. Of course I find myself thinking about all the things I miss about having a younger child. I miss kids books and bedtime snuggles and how excited Josiah used to get whenever he saw a digger. I miss new baby smell and the weight of a young child in my arms. I miss his three year old laugh.
But even as I miss these things, I can honestly say I would not turn back the clock if I could. Little kids are so wonderful, but big kids are really great too. For me, having an eleven year old was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
I realize, however, that we don’t always hear much about the great things that come with kids getting older. Our narrative is so often focused on the lament of our children aging that we can forget the joys that come with each new season. I think that’s a shame. That’s why, today, with just a few hours left before my son turns twelve, I want to celebrate those. I celebrate with this – my “Homage to Eleven” (*the age, not the character on Stranger Things).
Eleven, you were so good.
You were growing.
You were getting nearly as tall as me and outgrowing both your grandmothers.
You were a crazy mohawk you didn’t want to cut, sneakers you outgrew before you worn them out, and growing out of all your pants in four months so that we had to go shopping the day before we left on vacation.
You were eating a full medium pizza by yourself and telling everyone about it.
You were ordering from the adult menu in restaurants.
You were big enough for the big water slides and the high ropes courses and not needing to do the swim test every time we went swimming.
You were giving away your toy trucks and loving when another little boy enjoyed them as much as you had.
You were independence.
You were walking to school by yourself.
You were “go pack your bag” for vacation, and knowing you would do it fine on your own.
You were packing your own lunches and putting in more than pudding and fruit snacks.
You were not needing us to tuck you in, or run your showers, or carry your money for you when we went on vacation.
You were being able to be left on your own for a while.
You were being able to watch you from the beach while you went swimming and not having to go in with you.
You were doing your own laundry, mopping the basement every week, and using your backpack to hold your I-Pad so you could listen to podcasts while you did your chores.
You were learning.
You were learning to cook and bake. You were making crepes and scrambled eggs and a full week of breakfasts for us one week. You were cooking a meal of “spaghetti nests” one night when we were out with Lucy.
You were passing three levels of swimming.
You were learning to sail at camp and loving it.
You were school projects on food trucks and a speech about why apples are good for you. You were feeling proud that your writing mark went up a whole letter grade after working so hard.
You were new things.
You were starting middle school.
You were joining school council.
You were making the basketball team.
You were your first youth retreat, your first year in youth group, starting to help in Sunday School.
You were sitting in church for the service and starting to joke: “You’re going to use that as a sermon illustration, aren’t your Mom?” when we heard new stories.
You were deciding to try out for every team at school, even the ones you knew you wouldn’t make.
You were getting baptized, and making your faith your own.
You were helpful.
You were “Can you help me carry this?” – and you could.
You were “Can you figure out how to fix my computer?” – and you could.
You were “Can you watch Lucy?”- and you could.
But what I liked best, eleven, was that you were so much fun.
You were starting to figure out sarcasm.
You were liking the good movies and being able to play the good board games…
You were Cities and Knights of Catan, Indiana Jones, Marvel.
You were long bike rides we could do together, basketball in the driveway, diving contests when we went swimming.
You were getting the jokes.
You were going to a show in New York City, Harry Potter Studios in England, and eight kilometre hikes up mountains in Newfoundland.
Eleven, you were special.
You were brave.
You were discovering who you are.
You were not regretting getting older.
Thanks Eleven. Tell your friend, Twelve, I’m really looking forward to him.