Well here we are, another year gone, celebrating your fourteenth birthday and, although I say it every year, I’ll say it again, where does the time go? It feels like only yesterday you were tearing open your Power Rangers Megazord, zooming about on your new bike, blowing out the candles on your 4th birthday cake, and I genuinely feel as though I blinked and missed it.
Birthdays are always emotional when it comes to you Lewis, not only because you are growing way too fast but, with you being the very first one to make me a Mummy, I can’t help but get a little tearful at all we have shared. From that 24 year old who had never so much as held a baby before you, to a mother of five who could change a nappy with my eyes closed, you have taught me so much.
From the day I took you home, all tiny and new, I built my entire world around you, and I still do. It’s funny because, back then, I had all of these ideas about what our life would be like, about what I would be like as a parent, and the reality is, our lives, and I, have turned out to be incredibly different. For such a long time I beat myself up about that, feeling I had failed you for not giving you the traditional family unit I had dreamt of, for not being the Mother I had hoped to be, for putting you through so much upheaval, and so much heartache, and yet to you, I was nothing short of perfect.
And maybe that isn’t always the case these days when, at fourteen, you roll your eyes at me and ask, “Why can’t you just be normal?”, when you shut your bedroom door and block me out with your headphones, when you would rather hang out with your friends instead of me. I get that things change, I was very much the same at your age, and I guess it just makes the moments we do share even more special. When we ditch the kids and sneak off for an afternoon at the cinema, for a leisurely lunch or a few hours shopping; when you give in to my pleas to join us on a family day out, smiling for photos even when you’d rather be anywhere but there; when you join me on the couch to watch a TV show together, when you snuggle up beside me and lean your head on my shoulder, those are the moments when I know that, although things change, the bond we share never will.
Because for all my faults, and admittedly all of yours, together we have survived fourteen years, and that’s a huge achievement isn’t it? Considering what we went through, and how our whole lives turned upside down, we didn’t do too badly, did we? And today, as much as I celebrate all we have given you, I always take a moment to celebrate all you have given me. For you have taught me about patience and understanding, about learning to choose my battles and when to let go. You have taught me the importance of being silly and of fun and laughter, of enjoying the good days, and letting go of the bad. You have taught me to be kinder to myself, and to others, that it’s okay to make mistakes, even more so if you’re honest about them, and that if all I ever achieve in life is you five, then I have more than most ever will.
And in that way, with every passing year, if I can look back and know that we gave you memories to last a lifetime, that although I wasn’t perfect, I was real, that there wasn’t a single day when I didn’t tell you, and show you, just how special you are, then I know that I gave you my all.
Because thirteen was a great year for you in so many ways, with amazing sporting achievements, a ski trip to Italy, countless trips and family holidays together. Thirteen saw the bond you share with your siblings continue to grow, the news that in the Summer you will have another brother or sister to add to your brood, and the reassurance that your Dad and B, and Gaz and I, will continue working together to ensure we create a loving and secure environment for you to grow.
At the same time, thirteen was tough for you at times, going through the heartache of seeing your Grandad battling cancer. I hated that I couldn’t make that situation any easier for you, nor promise you that everything would be okay, and yet when he got the all clear at Christmas, I was filled with admiration for how well you had handled it.
And for you personally, the last few months have been difficult, dealing with your own health issues, undergoing a barrage of tests, missing a great deal of school, and yet never once complaining or feeling sorry for yourself. And now, as we wait to see another specialist, I look forward to a point where you can start to feel better, when that weight of worry finally lifts, when you get that sparkle back in your eyes and that colour in your cheeks.
Worry has been a common theme this year for me and, as a Mum, and I don’t think that ever truly goes away. One of the hardest parts of parenting is learning to give your child the freedom to grow, to spread their wings, and to eventually leave home and build a life of their own. I used to feel that I had all the time in the world to worry about that part and yet now, with just four years until you become an adult, that ticking of the clock seems to sound louder than ever.
And it’s funny because I think you feel it too, and it must feel overwhelming at times to imagine how, in just a few short years, your life will change in so many ways. Last night when I kissed you goodnight for the last time as a thirteen year old you told me, “I can’t believe that I’m going to be fourteen? It feels too old!”. And when I looked at you, a mixture of excitement and fear in your eyes, I saw that four year old boy with a Power Ranger clutched to his chest, and I had to swallow the lump of rising panic in my throat.
But the truth is Lew, you are going to be absolutely fine, at fourteen, at twenty four, as a grown up leaving home and paving a life of your own. You are without a doubt the most caring and sensitive soul, with a sensible head on your shoulders, and the world at your feet. Everyone who knows you, and every teacher who takes you for class, tells us what an amazing young man you have become, how intelligent you are, how switched on you appear, how you are both sporty yet academic, cheeky but adorable, handsome but modest, how there is nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it. And honestly, we couldn’t be any more proud of you if we tried.
I am so excited to see what this coming year has in store for you, and for all of us as a family. I’m sure I will be sitting here in no time at all looking back on all you have achieved, and all you have experienced, and asking myself all over again, where does the time go?
Happy 14th birthday Lewis, love you all the stars in the sky.