I recently had a friend who has young children ask me to write what it’s like to have teenagers. I’ve never analyzed it or seriously thought about this stage of life. I just live it. So do my sons. I don’t gather them close, placing a hand on their shoulder and say, “Sons, let’s have a heart-to-heart.” Conversations just happen. I love my teenagers because I’ve always taught them they can tell me anything. We’ve fostered an atmosphere where they can be themselves without reservation. Yes, they can be moody at times as teenagers are but I think my kids reflect our personalities and hopefully, worldview. So barring anything unexpected, we thank God because so far, so good.
My son Andy is the middle child. He has mentioned his position in the family pecking order from time to time. Each of my children are special to me. They try to one-up the other by declaring who is the “favorite”. They even give various reasons why. I indulge each of them, telling them why they are my favorite. (Wink, wink). Ellie is the only girl and the oldest, therefore she is the favorite. Andy is the favorite because he is the first-born son and looks like his dad. Aaron is the baby of the family and looks like my brother, thus he is the favorite. They all know I say this to each of them and are not fooled.
Andrew is very special to me though. I always wanted to have a boy, to give my husband a son. I have to admit, when we found out our daughter was going to be a girl, I was a little disappointed I wasn’t going to have his little boy first. I knew I would have a strong bond with my daughter and she’s special to me, my best friend. But in my heart, I wanted a son. A son to carry on the family name, to throw a ball around with and walk in his dad’s footsteps. When we found out Andy was a boy at our first sonogram, I cried. When he was born, I loved him in such a different way than I did my daughter. It isn’t more or less, just different. I always knew deep down that my mother had a different relationship with her sons. I never understood it until I had Andy.
He was such a sweet little guy. Tender-hearted, quiet and quick to learn that his older sister was queen! He definitely knew how to get along with her and always wanted to please. He was a sensitive and very introspective boy. He liked to time to draw away and play alone. He had a vivid imagination and still does. I just knew he would be a creative. One of the things I love most about Andy is that he is extremely considerate. He’s the one that I can count on to do anything I ask of him. He’s always been my helper. I look back on his infancy and felt a little robbed because I had his brother when Andy was only 18 months old. My sons grew up very close, like twins. That has been a blessing to watch them grow together and are still best friends. I wouldn’t have it any different even if I could.
Andy wrote an essay for a class that when we read it, made us very emotional. It was about the night he decided he would teach himself to play the guitar. His dad had taught himself at 14 and Andy had heard that story for years. He wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. I always knew he had music in him but didn’t know the talent he had until he began recording some of his own songs. I thought he could sing. I could hear him in the shower but he never wanted me to listen! Finally, one day he came and presented me with a SoundCloud recording that Tim and I couldn’t believe it was him! It was so good!
It was important that both Andy and Aaron had music lessons. They were terrific at their first recital this year. (I could be biased as their mom.) His guitar teacher and one of the owners of the music school paid him a compliment. They told my husband that if he really wanted it, they believed Andy could have a career ahead of him. It was a dream that came full-circle for me. I’ve always loved to sing and now, proud mother that I am, have enjoyed seeing them in their first “real” gig! Tim has said how proud he is of him because he has surpassed him in his guitar playing. Isn’t that what every parent wants? To see their child excel beyond them..
The biggest compliment I have ever received on our parenting was actually from Andy himself. He sent me a text from a friend’s New Year’s Eve party at midnight. The text said, “Thanks for raising me to be well-adjusted in a healthy family with good morals. Happy New Year!” I texted back, “Are you drunk?” He just laughed and said no. It was reward enough for me knowing that he was probably with others that were intoxicated but said he was having fun without it. He referred to the fact that we never raised them in such a way that made him feel like he was missing out on something. One of my proudest moments was when we had a conversation about our faith and whether or not he felt it had become his own, not just mom and dad’s “thing”. He’s seen a lot of dysfunction but said his roots in our beliefs will keep him strong.
I am proud of my kids. We are blessed. Andy turns 18 in a couple of days. He just graduated from High School and will be entering college soon for Music and Sound Engineering. Soon, he will be driving his own car. I look back on the life of this little blonde-haired boy and think, “Thank you God for blessing me with this life to raise.” He is becoming the young man I had always hoped he would be. A chip off the old block really. I joke with him occasionally about his name. Tim liked Andrew for a first name and I wanted Timothy for his middle. Little did we realize at the time that his initials would be A.T.M.! I kid him about making his name come true and succeeding in the music business. “Son, better start dispensing that cash soon!”
As I look back on raising our kids, I realize something. We all want better for our kids. My husband has fond memories of his childhood. My background was a bit different. So many of the things I felt I missed out on as a kid have served me well as we’ve raised them. I always wanted our family life to reflect good values, a strong, honest belief system as well as love and respect for each other. A lot of it was purposeful but much of it was just living day by day. They say more is caught than taught. I’ve seen that to be true. Lots of prayer, lots of love and lots of faith. I enjoy watching Andy begin this new season in his life. Well done, my boy! I look forward to celebrating you on your upcoming birthday!