Once upon a time, there was a baby. He was thin, long of limb, with a large brain or, at the very least, a big skull. As he grew up, he maintained his slight appearance, with the exception of a time during toddlerhood where he resembled an Easter ham--chubby, warm, and sufficiently succulent. One day, quite suddenly, he was eleven. His mother realized, with a bit of a surprised jolt, that he was somehow closer to turning 20 than he was to that day she first held his squishy body in her arms. If there was such a thing as late onset postpartum depression, she would certainly be presenting all symptoms. For it had come to pass in those days that her baby boy had grown up right before her eyes and she had somehow failed to see it until, perhaps, that very moment. Or she had seen it every day but faithfully perfected the art of denial.
Garrett, you are, somehow, all grown up. And, oh, I know that isn't exactly true. I know that you have to grow facial hair still and eat me out of house and home and grow taller than me. I know there are still countless report cards to bring home and proms to go to. I know that I still have time. But you have become your own person and sometimes, I still want you to be that little boy who made me fast forward through the part of Finding Nemo where the mama dies, that little boy who made me sing him to sleep for years, that kid who kicked the preschool director in the gut because there was simply no way he was going to stay there for one second without his mom.
But mostly, MOSTLY, I really love this version of you. You are a joy and a delight to me. Son, in my days as a substitute teacher, I have met A LOT of kids. Some of them are wonderful, to be sure. But when I see you walking through the halls or laughing with your friends at lunch, my heart swells with pride. I am SO GLAD that you are mine. And occasionally, as misguided and arrogant as this is, I feel sorry for everyone else in the world because they aren't lucky enough to call you their own. Then you'll tell some horrendously corny joke, thinking yourself to be hilarious, and I'll close my eyes, shake my head back and forth, and praise God for humbling me.
You are bold and brave. So much bolder and so much braver than I am. You're smart and athletic. You take direction and criticism but don't let either soak in and change your core. This past year, you participated in a geography bee and were the only fourth grader to advance into the second round. Sitting at that table, with all the bigger kids, you looked small and nervous but somehow confident and sure. You're gaining skills and speed on the soccer and baseball fields, and in a quick minute you'll be trying your hand at football. We tried to convince you that you're too small, that you'll get smashed--possibly beyond repair--but you won't have any of it. Of course, we have friends who look at us like we're psychotic parents for even thinking about letting you play but, Son, parenting is nothing but a fine line between letting your kids live and keeping them alive. I don't want you to look back on your childhood and say, "All I ever wanted to do was play tackle football and you wouldn't let me."
You're already going to blame us for the fact that you'll never reach your full potential as a rugby player. Because that's what you really want to do. And fencing. But the closest fencing place (studio? field?) is in Park City and that just seems treacherous in the winter and rugby is like football without rules. I'm apprehensive enough about football WITH rules. But you look stinkin' adorable in the shoulder pads so I'm embracing it. I know, I know, you aren't "going for" adorable. You're going for menacing but have you seen yourself? You're nothing but lanky limbs and a cute smile.
You love Jesus and that is a source of abundant joy to me. I hope and pray that you keep that fire as you get older. This isn't the easiest place for a pastor's kid who passionately loves the authentic Jesus of the Bible to grow up but you've made the best of it for the past decade. I'm so proud of your unwavering dedication to learning about the one true God.
I continue to believe that you were born in the wrong decade. You're such a free spirit, like Huckleberry Finn without the abusive father, and seem to have been born to wander. But, as Tolkien reminds us in The Lord of the Rings (look at ME quoting LOTR!), "Not all those who wander are lost." You long to fish, hunt, camp, and live a life connected to the land, to the elements, to the wide open countryside or mountain top. Your soul longs for the next journey and almost everything is an adventure in those twinkling green eyes and welcoming grin. I fear and rejoice in the fact that you cannot be contained.
Use your wanderlust for good, my boy. Be respectful, always. Love others, always. Show the light of Jesus to an unbelieving world, always. And when they hit you hard in football, hop back up again because your mama can't handle waiting to find out if you're gonna live.
I love you.