"Don't let your identity be determined by someone who forgets to changes his socks" and Other Advice For My 12 Year-Old

How did you become 12 years old? Just yesterday I was pregnant with you, my oldest, wondering if I was cut out to be a mother. Wondering if it would be harder than I expected (it is) or if it would bring me as much joy as I hoped (it does).

I remember you were just 10 days old when the two of us were on our own for the first time. You cried all day. I fed you, changed you, and you refused to sleep. We repeated the process All. Day. Long. When Daddy returned at the end of the day, he found both of us in the nursery sobbing.

We cut our teeth together, you and me. You’re basically my experiment. I’ve never done this before and so I’ll let you in on a little secret:

I’m 100% winging it and making it up as I go along.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. When it works, I’m shocked and grateful, making notes in hopes that the same approach will work with your younger sister and brother (it probably won’t). When it doesn’t, I apologize, ask for your forgiveness, and try again.

I’m learning to be a mom as you learn to be YOU.

Lately I’m noticing changes in you. Not just the physical changes like your height (it won’t be long until we’re eye-to-eye) and shoe size (good grief, you have man feet), but I’m noticing changes in the way you look at the world and me.

You’re learning to stand on your own. You’re clawing for independence and challenging the status quo while at the same time challenging my boundaries. You’re pushing back and trying my patience. My “just do it because I said so” isn’t as effective as it once was. Now you want to know “why” and I better have a good reason.

When these changes first started, I freaked out. What was this all about?!? Cut with the attitude already, mister! But, your wise aunt (and licensed, professional therapist) assured me this was all normal, pre-adolescent development. (Gah! You’re almost an adolescent! Hold me.)

I can tell you’re a ship between ports right now because one minute you’re challenging my authority and the next minute you’re snuggled up next to me while I stroke your hair.

One minute you’re participating in a goofy, family dance party and the next you’re more interested in your friends than the people under your roof.

Legos on one hand, girls (have mercy) on the other.

It’s bittersweet really. Bitter in that I’m losing that little boy with the big, brown eyes, bottomless curiosity, and willingness for me to decide everything for you. Sweet in that you still have those big, brown eyes and bottomless curiosity, but now you’re ready to decide for yourself and I see you making good decisions (most of the time).

Middle school awaits you in this next year and likely a whole slew of new experiences/feelings/hormones, too. And while there’s a small part of me that wants to hold you tightly, praying and willing for you to stay small forever, I’ll let you grow.

I’ll let you choose.

I’ll let you fail.

I’ll let you soar.

But not before I share a couple of final thoughts. So, indulge your ol’ mom, will you?

Let your kindness trump your pride. Let your questions rule over your assumptions. Let your confidence come from knowing God made you perfectly and he’s there to lead and guide you each step of the way.

I’m proud of who you’ve been, who you are, and who you are becoming. Stay true to that. Don’t listen too closely to the messages of your friends. Think about it: you’re 12. Your friends are 12. You all can be goof balls sometimes.

Don’t let your identity be determined by someone who forgets to change his socks.

I believe you have what it takes. But remember, you are more than your accomplishments or your mistakes and neither change our love for you.

You’ll be tempted to let your success or others’ praise boost your confidence. But, that same confidence can shatter when failure happens or popular opinion sways. Knowing how God designed you, what He has planned for you, and that His forgiveness covers your mess ups, will keep you centered during your ups and downs. Do your best, be who you are, and God will handle the rest.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. There is a whole world of people, foods, cultures, and experiences to discover. Step out of your comfort zone. You might be surprised by what you learn to love and it’s almost always worth it.

People are worth it, too. Take that extra moment to say thank you or ask how someone is doing. When the world is cruel, your kindness might be the only bright spot in their day. It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind and it is a priceless gift to another.

This might not seem cool, especially in middle school. Those years tempt you to try on your Bully, Jerk or Mean Person hat. You see others being picked on and vow to never be the focus of their taunts. So, you’ll want to go on the offensive. You might want to tease and exclude others with hopes of boosting your social status.

Which might happen…..in the short term.

But, the friend others want in the long term is the one who genuinely cares. The boy whose jokes aren’t at someone else’s expense. The buddy who is loyal and true. The friend who can be trusted. And that’s you.

Don’t be in too big a rush to grow up. It’s still okay to like toys. It’s great to want to spend time with your family. You’ll eventually grow up. And when you do, you’ll realize you can’t go back. So, take your time. Enjoy each year for the adventures it holds.

And don’t forget in the midst of your wing-spreading that I love you deeply. I joke about how hard parenting can be, but it’s also one of the biggest joys of my life. I’m incredibly blessed to be your mom. Each day I’m filled with thankfulness that in all creation, God chose you for me.

I’m the luckiest of all.