Happy 15th birthday, Ferris. Last night as I was heading to bed, you told me that you were going to stay up til midnight to “ring in your birthday.” I felt a twinge of guilt, wondering if I should stay up with you. But you reassured me.

“I just want to be awake for it,” you said, looking up at the basketball game on your TV. You were content. You didn’t need me.

So, I went to bed. Your youngest sister, 7, woke me at 6:30 a.m. today, shaking me and shouting “It’s Ferris’ 15th birthday! MOM! Get up! We have to go get donuts!”

So we went and got donuts. And a few balloons that your little sister insisted on. And a cake she picked out. Oh, and orange juice she was sure you would want with your birthday donut.

“It’s his birthday. It’s his special day!” she kept insisting.

Indeed. It IS your birthday and it is a special one. We all think so.

I’m not sure why 15 feels like such a milestone. It’s not your first “teen” year and it’s still a year away from the infamous “driver’s license” milestone. It’s still a few years away from you being an adult. It’s an in-between birthday and yet — it feels big.

I’ve been thinking about the why of this perception and the best I can come up with is that this year feels like the biggest shift from childhood to adulthood yet.

You started high school this year. You’ve grown several inches, rivaling your dad for tallest in the family, in the past six months. Your voice is unrecognizable to friends and family who haven’t seen or spoken to you in a few years. 

But more than any of that — you are becoming more of YOU. You are stronger in your convictions. You can articulate how you are feeling either in the moment or a few moments after an initial emotional reaction. You apologize. 

You advocate for yourself, even if your parents disagree. You are kind to your sisters. You are affectionate to our dogs. You pause and exercise more caution in what you do and in what you say. You say “this isn’t for me” instead of pushing through or following someone else’s edicts. 

You change your mind. You push back. You test boundaries for yourself — and yes, sometimes with your parents. 

But everything you do is movement closer and closer to being completely, authentically YOU. It’s happening in ways that make sense to me — “Yes, he’s always loved animals and nature. Of course he’s excelling in biology.” — and in ways that completely surprise me — “He’s getting high marks in his difficult Spanish class. Who knew?”

Your character is shining through in more frequent “thank yous” and “I love yous.” It’s apparent in the deliberate conversations you have with your Dad about basketball and the moments you sit with your youngest sister and play with her toys. 

It’s in the hours you spend shooting hoops in the driveway and in the way you remind your sisters not to put up with sh*% from people trying to cut them down. It’s in the quiet moments when you’re sitting by the pool, petting a dog, saying nothing that I see glimpses of the you in there.

And there are still challenges. There are still moments that your character is hiding or blinded. I could write about all of those moments but the truth is that those too are helping you learn and grow. We can’t fix it all for you. We can’t stop you from making mistakes. But we can be here when you need that safe space to land.

So happy birthday – to my one and only son, my oldest child. May this year bring you more of YOU in everything you do. 

Category: Mumbling Mommy