15 wishes on your 15th birthday

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dear Quinn,
Fifteen years ago today you blessed me with the title of "mother" and my life has never been the same. Nor would I want it to be. I've often heard the saying that once you become a parent, a piece of your heart lives outside of your body for the rest of your life. This is all too true. Every decision I have made from January 6, 1997 on has had you at the heart of it. No longer was I just responsible for myself but another living, breathing human being. It is an awesome responsibility but an amazing privilege as well. Anything I have or will yet accomplish in this life will matter more than what kind of sons I raise. It's a charge I take very seriously. I love when your birthday rolls around as it gives me an opportunity to reflect on the amazing gift that you have been and always will be to me.

From the beginning, every mother has hopes and dreams for her child and will go to great lengths to make sure those come to fruition. We all want our kids to have every opportunity not afforded to us in our own childhood. It's a parent thing. Unfortunately, it seems that most of those desires are rooted in material blessings. Nowadays, my peers who are parents seem to judge the success of their parenting solely on their child's athletic ability or academic success--or a combination thereof. Rarely do we hear anyone say "he's a generous, selfless kid" or "she cares about those less fortunate than her."

On that note, I wanted to do something a little different for your annual birthday blog post. In the past I have usually listed the number of attributes I love about each of my sons corresponding to their current age. This year I decided to list 15 wishes I have for you on your special day. Now some of these might catch you by surprise or have you scratching your head wondering why I would wish them or, even worse, think they would actually be considered "gifts." You should know me by now and that there is always a method to my madness. I'm always after the bigger lesson, right? How many times do you hear me say "what kind of man to you want to be?" versus "how many goals did you score?" I can picture your eyes rolling as I write this. One day you might thank me or even agree with me but for now hang in there and scroll through. There is an explanation below each wish. And they're alphabetical, of course. I am an English teacher, after all. (almost)

1. The gift of ADVERSITY. Not having things always go your way is one of the greatest teachers and the only way to make you truly appreciate what you have. In the most trying times is where you will find your strength, look inward and upward, and grow the very most.

2. The gift of CHANGE. No one likes to be caught by surprise in a world where planning and "controlling your destiny" is encouraged. It's natural to want to have stability, security and be able to count on certain things happening in life. If you can learn to embrace change and find the positive in that which is out of your control, you will find immense satisfaction and growth.

3. The gift of EDUCATION. As a high school student, going to school doesn't feel like a gift but a burden. But if you can remember that most of the world will never have the opportunity to learn how to read or write, you will see how very blessed you are to get all this for free. It's a privilege not a right. And I hope that you will be committed to being a life long learner even beyond your formal education.

4. The gift of FAMILY. Being born into a family where you are wanted, cared for and loved is a huge blessing. Even when we annoy you, I know that you love being part of our family. Beyond that, I hope and pray that your future is blessed with a wife and children yourself as you leave your own legacy in this world.

5. The gift of FRIENDSHIP. You are a super social guy and have always had a lot of friends which I know has meant a lot to you. I wish for you to not only continue to have a good, core group of friends you can count on but to be a loyal friend to others as well.

6. The gift of HARD WORK. By this I mean "back breaking" type of manual labor. There is a unique satisfaction that comes from physically exhausting yourself and seeing the results of that. You will never regret giving it your all whether it's working on a farm, a construction site or anything else that pushes your limits in this way.
7. The gift of HEALTH. This is so easy to take for granted--especially when you're young and fit. Waking up every day being able to walk, talk, see and hear is something to be deeply appreciated. It's one of those things that "you don't know what you've got until it's gone."

8. The gift of HUMILITY. This can take on so many different forms from doing a job that you are overqualified for to giving of your time and talents without expecting anything in return--or even doing it anonymously. Thinking of others as more important than yourself will always serve you well and show your true character.

9. The gift of LAUGHTER. You have a great sense of humor and a quick wit and laugh very easily. The true test, and true gift, is when you are able to laugh at yourself. To make fun of your own shortcomings or blunders will draw others to you and make them more at ease with themselves. However, laughter at another's expense is never an attractive trait.

10. The gift of LOVE. I look forward to the day when a young lady captures your heart and you fall madly in love. Not puppy love or self serving but true, unconditional, ready-to-lay-down your-life-for-her kind of love. It will be a beautiful thing.

11. The gift of PATIENCE. You have grown up in an instant gratification world. I know you think us stodgy old adults love to throw that term around for nostalgia's sake, and that we're out of touch, but there's a lot to be said for good old waiting. Self control and denying immediate pleasure are so difficult but having that discipline has been scientifically proven to increase self esteem. In other words, it can't hurt.

12. The gift of PERSERVERANCE. Sticking with something, especially when everything inside you is screaming "QUIT!" is so rewarding. Nothing beats knowing and hearing "A job well done."

13. The gift of SERVICE. This could tie in with humility because it, once again, is considering others as more important than you. And serving generally doesn't equate with getting paid. You do it because it's the right thing to do and Jesus was the greatest example of that. He did not come into this world to be served but to serve others. An attitude that we would all do well to adopt.

14. The gift of WISDOM. You might consider this redundant if you lump it in with education but I'm talking more about gaining knowledge and wisdom in life, not just head knowledge. There's said to be five stages of a man's life with the last being a "Sage". I hope you will take to heart all of the opportunities and disappointments that come your way, for this is where a wise man is found. And I pray you will pass on your knowledge to those coming behind you. The world needs more Sages.

15. (not in alphabetical order) The gift of a deep abiding faith in Jesus which is at the center of all of these. He will never leave you or forsake you and had great things in mind when He created you. Stick close to Him and no matter what happens in your life (even if you never have any of the above) you will find He is the greatest gift of all.

Happy 15th birthday, Quinn! I love who you are and who you are becoming!