So, somehow, I am now the father of a teenager.

The little boy who would wake up early, climb out of bed and pitter-patter across the hardwood to climb under the covers with me... he’s a teenager now.

The 5 lb 13 ounce peanut who arrived five weeks early and almost didn’t survive his first night...

The tiny little one who I would sing to sleep on my shoulder...

A teenager.

When kids are little, people say “Don’t worry, it gets better.”

I never needed it to get better.

I loved when he was just a tiny bundle swaddled and asleep in my lap as I stayed up all night watching movies as his mom slept.

I loved the 2s, 3s and 4s. I have loved it all.

I have loved every phase, every milestone.

I have them all stored away.

I remember his first word, first real belly laugh, first steps.

April 17th, 2019. In front of the bakery. He just decided that was the day.

Those early firsts are developmental.

The helpless becoming less so.

To be a parent is to first be a nurturer to a dependent.

To be a parent is to first be a caregiver - to feed and clothe and protect.

Along the way though, that child - that human being who you brought into this world and tended to and kept warm and safe and fed - they become their own whole person.

Their dependence ebbs.

And it all changes.

They change. You change.

Your relationship evolves.

And in that evolution is both loss and renewal.

While you lose the yesterday of when your child would fall asleep on your chest, you gain the today of a person who is whole and unique and special.

Parenting is an act of planned obsolescence. Learning to love the letting go.

Oh, how I have loved this ride.

I adore my son. I adore him.

We are each imperfect. We have our flaws and failures. Yet, we know each other like the backs of our hands.

I love him both without condition and without limit.

He knows that. I tell him anyway.

He’s a teenager now.

I am not the center of his universe - nor should I be.

I get the side-eye and the “dad, I’m talking to my friends...” more often than not when I walk into his room.

He is ready for privacy and independence. He has it.

I am now more like a support van trailing a rider in the Tour de France than a coxswain telling him when to row.

I guide more than direct; nudge more than push; encourage more than dictate.

Mine is no longer the leading role in his movie - for it is his movie not mine.

Even so, we still lay down on his bed at night to “hang out” long before lights out.

We still lay around talking about everything and nothing.

And every now and then, with the lights out, he’ll say “can I lay on you?” and I’ll say “Sure.”

And he’ll just tuck in under my arm and put his head on my chest.

And almost instantly, he’ll be asleep.

It is maybe the last legacy of his younger days. He has always settled into sleep almost instantly next to me at bedtime.

I’ll just lay there in the special still of having your child next to you fast asleep.

There is no greater peace.

It makes quiet all of the world’s noise.

It is a perfect calm that silences all of life’s winds if only for those moments.

I have a few more of those left, I hope... but they too will go.

It will change again and he’ll get older and I’ll adapt.

Things I’ve loved about this time will be left behind but in their place will be new things and I will love them too.

There is nothing in the world I love or have loved more than being a father.

I love my son with my total capacity to love.

And I like him.

I like the person he is. I like his character and personality. I like his heart and his mind.

He is a teenager now.

I am a father to a teenager who I so very much adore.

Happy birthday, my son. This day is yours.

Just know that on every single one that came before it over these past 13 years, the joy has been mine.

I love you, kid.


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