You turned 12 yesterday. You’re no longer a little boy. The baby chub cheeks are long gone, your hair is stylishly spiked, and you only once in a while climb up in my lap to cuddle. Gone are the days when you could fall asleep in the car and get carried into the house… too big for that.
We’ve had our challenges, oh emotional one. Times when I’ve thought “I did NOT sign up for THIS.” It’s amazing to me to think of those times now, to think of you as a 6- or 7-year-old and me worried about whether you would ever turn out okay. Crying on the phone to my mom: “I did not sign up for this! Will he be okay? Is it possible he’ll ever be an okay person??” Ha!
Today you are a young man who cleans the kitchen. Sweeps the floors. Does the laundry. You look after your young brothers, mediate disputes for them, oversee their homework. You assist in teaching kung fu classes, you make informative and funny videos for your blog audience, and you make us all laugh every day. You’re patient with your mother, even when she forgets that she said she would help you… and when “I’ll be there in five minutes” turns into three hours…
You do all of that without complaining and even without being reminded (most of the time).
But those are just little things. They’re nice, and we’re awfully glad you do them. They make life easier for us, and show that you are growing in maturity. But in the grand scheme of things, they’re just icing on the cake.
Here is the cake: You are a young man who has worked HARD over the years to overcome both internal and external challenges to be the sort of person who says, “How can I help?” And that is the most important thing any person can ever do.
Dinner needs to be made… How can I help? Guests are coming… What can I do? Brother is crying… How can I help? Someone is lonely… Can we visit them? People are homeless… How can I help? Kittens are abandoned… What can we do? Mommy is stressed… How can I help? How can I help? How can I help?
If more people asked “How can I help?” as often and as deeply as you do, this world would be a far better place. You MAKE it a better place by asking that question, and that’s a pretty amazing thing that you do.
Sure, you’re twelve and get frustrated and storm off to your room sometimes. You roll your eyes at your mother occasionally. You’re not always sure how to handle the drama of your friend having a crush on a girl who torments him, and you’re not always sure who you can talk to about your own crushes (do you have crushes? I think so, because you’re 12 and that’s normal, but your mother is not privvy to this information… )…
There was a time, when you were only six and seven years old, when you went through a rough time. There were some pretty troubling behaviors we were dealing with. We worried. During that time, a person I called a friend confided in me, over the phone, that she worried about my younger two children… having to live with SUCH an older brother.
I didn’t know what to say at the time. What does a mother say to such a vote of no confidence from her “friend”?
Now I do know what to say. Let me tell you what I would say to her now:
“SUCH an older brother is the best gift my younger two children could ever hope for. The challenges he has faced have made him better. More compassionate, more self-controlled, more helpful and loving. So much goodness that it brims over, fills the cup to the top and overflows, spreading out to bring joy and goodness to those around him. Who could ask for better than that in an oldest son, older brother, friend, companion?
“SUCH a son is the best gift a mother could ever hope for.”
Stephen Montgomery (Monty) Head, I love you and I always have and always will. That will always and would always be true, no matter what. And also, because of the person you have worked so hard to become, and to continue becoming, I am more proud of you than you can imagine.
P.S. You also have a terrific sense of humor, and so I know you will get a kick out of the fact that your birthday letter has arrived a day late. Because that’s the kind of mom I am–mostly a day late, when I remember at all. Thank you for being patient with me and loving me anyway.
P.P.S. I’m not friends with the woman who said that about you any more, about being SUCH an older brother. Having said that doesn’t make her a bad person, but when I think back on that time, I realize my real friends (all of whom are still friends today) were those who BELIEVED in you and believed in our family, even when I was having a hard time believing myself. Because that’s what friends do. Believing can be hard to do, and I am so very very grateful that there are people in my life who have and do believe in us. You are a very lucky young man to have such friends in your life… and I’m a very very lucky mama to have such a young man as you in mine.