Monday, April 4, 2016

Happy Sixteenth Birthday, Benjamin

I cannot believe he's sixteen - and nearly six feet tall.  Where have these years gone? It is so cliche and yet so true how you blink and your child is nearly grown. I wouldn't mind him getting older as much if it didn't mean that I am also getting older. Don't get me started singing Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide."

When Benjamin was born, I remember telling each person before they held him to whisper a prayer of blessing in his ear. I have watched as his life has born this fruit as he grows in stature and character.

I parent with the belief that I will trust my child until they give me a reason not to and then they have to work to earn back that trust. Overall, I have never had any serious problems with Benjamin. He's been a great kid and is turning out to be a great young man.

I know many parents who love but don't really like their kids or spending time with them, but I have been very fortunate to enjoy spending time with Benjamin. We laugh together, over YouTube shows like Good Mythical Morning or podcasts like Relevant. But we also share with each other in an honest manner that allows for a deeper relationship than being just buddies. It is vital that we are vulnerable and honest with each other and that he sees my struggles as well as I see his. We talk about things of faith and he comes to me with his questions and his concerns. I listen to him and hear his heart. He has a good heart. He is someone who is compassionate, kind, and inclusive. He cannot stand injustice, cruelty or someone being left out.

One of the ways I see this most is in his relationship with Cava. He is protective and loving towards his younger brother, even when Cava doesn't deserve it. One morning, I was driving Benjamin and his friend to school when Benjamin suddenly said, "Look at that hawk!" Then he added, "Our family never really noticed birds before Cava came." I loved hearing that because it was a big brother who shares his tenderness for his younger brother in front of his friend. I love when Benjamin takes Cava's hand and they walk along together or when they laugh together.

This is not to say they don't bicker and argue and fight, but, at the root of it all, they are brothers. Real brothers.  And much of that has been because Benjamin has been loving and patient when many would not have been. He allowed for Cava to get more attention from us when he needed it.

I love that Benjamin enjoys being with us. That he will take my hand or his mother's when we walk somewhere in public. That he will still sit next to one of us and lean his head against our shoulders.

One of my favorite sounds is hearing him laugh. I delight in seeing joy on his face.

I like that, in many ways, he is still a kid who likes to play. As much as he loves computers and technology, he also loves to spend time outdoors. He will ask to go for a walk or hiking up Crowder's Mountain.

Though I don't always understand what he's talking about, I love listening to him talk about whatever is important to him. While I communicate best through my writing, he does through computer code. He expresses himself best in his programming and I encourage him in his endeavors and his dreams for they are more important to me than my own. 

After Benjamin was born, he wailed at the top of his lungs. I walked over to where they were cleaning him off and I quietly told him, "It's okay, your Papa's here." To my surprise, he became silent and just looked at me. He knew my voice. Sometimes I wish it were that easy now. 

It's not always easy to be a parent to a teenage boy, but I would not trade my time with Benjamin for anything because I am getting the opportunity to spend precious time with him. In two years, he will be off to college. I cherish the moments I get with him to not only shape and guide him, but to truly get to know him better. I want to be here for him now so that he will know that I will always be there for him. 

When he leaves, it will be difficult for me. Ever since he was five, I have worked part-time and have been way more involved in his life than most dads get to be. This has been a real blessing to me. Being a Papa is one of my biggest accomplishments. It's hard work. Really hard work. And I fail a lot. But for all of those failures, I strive to be real and authentic in all areas of my life to be an example for both of my sons. They first see their heavenly Father through their Earthly one. I don't take that lightly. 

Seeing Benjamin mature in his Christian faith and that we can talk about that is among the best times I have with him. He hears my own doubts and questions, my own struggles and, ultimately, the trust I have in Christ. He needs to see and hear all of that to know that it is okay to have them himself because he will. Not a day passes that I don't thank God for giving me this son of my right hand, as his name means in Hebrew. I pray over him and for him and his life. 

I stress that character is important and that our choices determine our character. One bad choice in a moment can wreck years of character. But I am proud of the character he is developing. I show him that failure is not failing in life but letting it stop you from continuing to try.

None of my words can truly express how much I love my first son. He was an answer to prayer when he was born and he continues to be. I love him with all of my heart and am honored to say that he is not only my son, but that I am his Papa.

Happy birthday, Benjamin.

You really are a special young man. May God use you however He has your path to go. I will watch and to my dying breath be proud to say, "He's my son."

Your Papa.

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