The year I turned twelve, I got a snazzy new purple and neon yellow track suit from Big 5 Sporting Goods in Yorba Linda, California. I knew nothing about anything back then, but I thought I knew everything about all the things that mattered.
Youthful ignorance is bliss.
That was about five minutes ago, I think. Or maybe it's been a million years. I don't know for sure. Time is too hard to understand.
I do know for sure that I woke up at 6:30 this morning to make blueberry muffins and breakfast tacos, and to be the first to shout "Happy Birthday!" to the new twelve year-old who sleeps upstairs in my house. I am pretending today that I am okay with this new age of my first-born.
Gosh, he's a great kid. Full of woo and friendship for everyone he meets. Generous with compliments and love for his mama. Always ready to play any kind of sport with anyone who is willing to play. He'll let you win the first game if it means you'll play a second.
I used to wonder how I would ever teach him to share his toys and read long words. Now I wonder how we'll teach him to stop slouching and guard his heart against the tide of peer pressure. Like all twelve year-olds since the beginning of time, he sometimes thinks he knows everything about all the things that matter.
I get more sleep than I did when he was a baby, but the stakes are so much higher and my influence is limited by his growing competence at life-in-general.
First-borns get all the experimental parenting. They're good sports about it, thankfully. All the younger ones seem to pick up everything by osmosis, but these first-borns get the longest lectures mixed with our strongest theoretical guesses at how to win their hearts.
The last few years, I've consciously slowed the wheels driving me to perfectly parent this biggest boy of mine. I've held my tongue more, let him off the hook a lot, and taken deep breaths when his tweenage eye-rolling increased. I think it's going well, but parenting is so messy in the day-in-day-out that we never know for sure if we're missing a blind spot or two.
The key to happiness seems to be enjoying the simple moments of being a family. Does it means we will raise great kids? I hope so, but grace will have to fill in the gaps I miss, because I don't really know how to be a flawless mom.
I know how to tell him he's diligent and handsome and and fun to talk to after a baseball game. I know how to do his stinky laundry and bake apple pies on his birthday. I know how to listen to his goofy jokes and ask about his friends. I know how to pray for him and with him.
Twelve years ago right now, I was in clueless agony trying to give birth to a baby. Today, I am just grateful we've made it this far and still love each other this much. After twelve years of learning to love him better by letting go a little bit at a time, I still have no idea what I'm doing.
But it's pure joy to bumble my way through the years with this kid. I only wish I still had that radical track suit to prove to him how awesome I was when I was his age.
On second thought, maybe it's better that I don't....