When my children were little wishing them a “Happy Birthday” was an easy thing. I loved to rush into their rooms, yell out “Happy Birthday!” and watch their faces light up. They knew that the day would always be a special one for them, filled with family, friends, lots of cake and of course presents! I was just as happy about their birthdays as they were. I was just as excited planning their parties and celebrating with them as they embarked on yet another eventful year ahead of them.
Now I don’t mean to “bah humbug” their special days, but I am discovering that I’m not as enthusiastic about their birthdays as I used to be. It’s not them…it’s me! With every birthday they celebrate, I realize I am that much older too and I am watching them test their wings ready to fly from the nest. Truly with every birthday celebration they have, I feel more and more like a mourning Dove thinking about saying “good-bye” to my little nestlings.
My son, Brett turns eighteen today. He is tall, handsome, gentle-spirited, good-natured and he has reminded me for weeks now leading up to this birthday that legally he will now be considered an “adult” in the eyes of the law. Whaaaa? How did that happen? How did he get from being that smiley, dimple-cheeked little cherub that stole our hearts with his boyish antics and infectious laughter to this tall young man, an adult, ready to face the world on his own?
I can still see him in my mind’s eye splashing in our pool as a toddler, screaming at the top of his lungs, “I love my big bathy!” With equal clarity, I see him, with his little blue ball cap on, running across our field and then tumbling as he tripped in a gopher hole. Without missing a beat, he would be up on his feet and running full tilt again…until he hit the next gopher hole.
I remember the first time he played soccer as a tiny four year old. He and his buddy Jackson were so busy looking down gopher holes that they forgot to kick the soccer ball!
I remember Brett lacing up his first pair of ice-hockey skates. He didn’t know how to stop so he kept slamming into the boards to stop his forward motion. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective. Fast forward to a playoff game years later…he was perhaps the smallest player on the ice at that time but he could skate circles around the opposition. He had stolen the puck at mid ice and now there was only a big defensemen in his way before he would have a clear shot at the goal. Rather than go around the boy, Brett ducked and went right between his legs! I think it so surprised the defensemen AND the goalie who saw it that they both forgot to move so Brett easily lifted the puck over the stunned goalie’s shoulder to score the goal. Brett credits that goal and many others to saying to himself as he skated all the way down the ice, “I can do everything through Him Who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:13 It has become his life verse and it has encouraged him to press on and up and over (and sometimes under..hahaha) throughout his eighteen years.
I remember when he caught his first fish, won his first swimming trophy, and scored his first soccer goal. I was (am) his biggest fan…always have been. I know it embarrassed him as he got older when I would yell, “Go Bretty Go!” I was even told by one of his hockey coaches that I was psychologically damaging him by calling him, “Bretty”. But I ignored the comment, and continued to cheer him on. I was always his loudest fan in the hockey rink or on the soccer pitch. Didn’t matter if he came in first or last, I cheered for him. My mother’s heart swelling with pride with every accomplishment, and my mother’s heart breaking for his every disappointment.
And now on his eighteenth birthday, I will sing “Happy Birthday” slightly more subdued this year than in previous years. I see a young man, who is itching to test his wings and to soar. He wants to start making his own decisions; to live with the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. Try as I might to hold on to him, to shelter and protect him, I will instead very reluctantly squeak out, “Go Bretty Go!”…while he blows out his eighteen candles and celebrates his upcoming independance. He can always count on me to cheer him on but I will remember his verse: Phil. 4:13, and claim it for myself on the day when I truly must let him Go.