For my firstborn on his sixteenth birthday

Today my oldest son, my firstborn celebrates his sixteenth birthday. Sixteen! How can it be? It seems just yesterday he looked like this:

Or this:

But now it’s this:

I really can’t believe it. I’m caught between the bitter and the sweet, between sadness over the passing of his babyhood and pride over the Godly man he is becoming. I am happy; I am melancholy. He is an amazing kid and being his mom is a joy and a privilege. This morning as he backed out of the driveway, his brand new driver’s license in his back pocket, I thought of my friend’s wisdom when she told me many years ago “We raise ’em to let ’em go.” So we do. And it is bittersweet, indeed.

It may seem I am far more sentimental with my number one boy and perhaps I am.  All my children are special and unique and cherished and loved just as much and with the same fierceness as my first, but there’s something different about that first taste of motherhood that persists even sixteen years later. I think it has something to with the fact that with every stage of the firstborn’s life, we break new ground. All is new, untested, and foreign. The learning curve, for all of us, mother and father and  first son, is steep and we have to figure it out together.

In honor of that bittersweet sentimentality, I’m reposting a couple of reflections of birthdays past since much of my emotion then is echoed today, only more so.

When he turned 13:

I think of our journey to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning thirteen years ago. How young we were! How naive! And, dare I say it, how ignorant! I cannot remember what was in my thoughts, but I know this: I had no idea my life would be turned upside down and my heart inside out.

I am not the sentimental type. I mean, I never cry, except in the privacy of my own home and then only when overtired or overstressed. I don’t scrapbook. I didn’t mourn the start of kindergarten nor anguish over any other of the milestones we have encountered.

But today I am melancholy. Today I see how quickly time passes and those stages of life you thought would last forever really slip by like sand between your fingers. Today I find myself wondering where the days went and why I didn’t cherish them more. Today I understand he is becoming his own man and I see all I did…and didn’t do…and should’ve done…and wanted to be…and wonder if it was enough. Today I am so proud of the person he is becoming. Today I know how hard it is to be thirteen and part of me wishes he were little again, in my lap reading Good Night, Moon, carefree, safe from teasing and insecurity and all the other plagues of adolescence. Today I want to hold him close because I sense that time will pass all the more quickly and before I know it I will have to let him go.

My boy loves the Lord Jesus. And that is all this mother could wish for. I do not ask for wealth or prominence or the trappings of worldly success. Rather, I pray he love the Lord Jesus with his life, following hard after Him with boldness and determination.

And on his fourteenth birthday:

Fourteen years ago, there in the hospital room, in an instant, when the doctor lay this wriggling, slimy person on my chest and proclaimed “It’s a BOY!”, my life was forever altered. Forever and ever altered.

Fourteen years ago I had no idea that motherhood was far more than playing house. It is exhilerating, challenging and heartbreaking, full of joy and anxiety, all at the same time.

I’ve learned much over the last fourteen years, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes (a LOT of mistakes). I’ve seen my own frailty and failures as a mother, over and over and over again. But I’ve also seen joy, great joy, and love, overwhelming love. Much, much to savor: first tooth, first step, first word, first day of school. “I love you, Mommy” and more hugs and kisses that could be counted. There is the yuck too: stomach viruses and spankings and temper tantrums in Wal Mart.

I’ve been there for it all and it is all worth it. All of it.

Yes, motherhood changed me, but in every respect for the better. I am grateful, profoundly and inexpressibly grateful, for the privilege and responsibility of being a mom. That God would call me to this, the raising these boys, is amazing and humbling…

I’m proud of this boy of mine. He is quickly growing (and growing and growing and growing…) into a man; this morning I looked (up) into his eyes, attempting to trace the little boy of my memory. He is there, sometimes more than he should be, but yes, he is still my baby.

As he grows (and grows and…) and matures and becomes his own man, I am tempted to pray that he will know popularity and favor, success and comfort, all the temporal blessings this world has to offer. Instead, I pray he will have courage to choose the hard thing of living for Jesus, of pursuing righteousness and purity before God, of taking up his cross and dying to self, of being a bold and unashamed witness for Christ.

To my son: may you never forget how much you are loved by your parents. May you walk with the Lord Jesus all the days of your life and may you live for His glory and His alone. Happy, happy birthday!

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Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

11 thoughts on “For my firstborn on his sixteenth birthday”

  1. What a loving tribute to a wonderful young man. I echo so many of the sentiments in all your posts, we were so young and had no idea of what we were doing! But, here we are 16 yrs later and as you said “Watching them back out of the driveway’. Seems like a time warp. All we can do is hope they make good decisions and lean on their “raising” as my Mom used to say. Happy Birthday to Nathan- a milestone!

  2. I hear ya! My firstborn is 11, and growing up so very fast. I also am not one to be overly sentimental, but I am quite aware of the quick passage of time, and how little time I actually have with her now.

  3. Oh boy… hold on sister. God gives you these next two years to prepare you for the college release. I’ve experienced it all. Looking back, I’m relieved to be beyond it, but it nearly killed me in the process. Always here for you should you want to talk. I’m not trying to discourage you, just to validate you! These won’t be the easiest of days for so many reasons.

    He’s a fine-looking young man. May God grant you both a special measure of peace and unity in these days of growing up… him and you!

    lots of love and peace~elaine

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