Sixteen

You are the ringleader. When I look up, you have cousins, kids, your sister, watching and following you around. You always make me laugh with what goofiness you come up with to run them through. From costumes to choreography, I don’t have a clue where you come up with it.

You are the curious one. Watching, listening atop the stairs, paying attention when no one realizes it.  You leash the dog and set out on foot. You are the sea glass explorer and the finder of odd things.

I rarely ever cried before you were born. Now I can’t watch movies with fathers and daughters in them; I am pretty well worthless in church if a sermon, song, or prayer hits the right note. That comes from being a father, which started with you. I guess the yelling comes from that too 🙂

I’m not sure how a father is supposed to feel about his oldest child turning 16. And I’m not sure how I feel about it, so I guess that’s about right. I feel like I remember turning 16 too well for you to be there already. My teenage years were full of bad decisions, adventures, opportunities, and dumb luck. You’ve avoided a lot of the bad decisions so far, for which I thank you.

My father knew a lot more about being a dad to a 16 year old than I do, or he didn’t let on otherwise. It’s a privileged place to look at my parents and how they did it and at my daughter and how she does it. I have a lot to learn.

I want to strangle you a fair amount of the time, but I recently learned it’s your amygdala I have to take it up with. I realize you are part of God’s way of teaching me patience at the same time you are teaching me about love and gratitude.

You care about people in ways that make me both humble and proud and make me worry, which is part of what parents do, especially with 16 year olds.

When you forget yourself, you do amazing things. I’ve seen it on the field hockey field, or stepping up to play goalie in lacrosse, or in a hospital with your sister. I hope you learn to trust that more.

Paddleboarding this past summer, just the two of us, brought out the kind of conversations, questions, laughter, that no one could have told me existed before I knew you.

You and others know this story, but it’s on my mind now: we were on our way into the Annapolis Mall, you were three and sitting backwards on Ava’s stroller looking at us, and out of nowhere, unprompted, you asked, “Why did God make us?” I didn’t know what to say. You caught me off guard. And then you answered, “Know why I think? I think because He was lonely.”

There is no amount of theology or learning that has ever said it better. And if we can know the love God felt and feels and how His loneliness disappeared, maybe you show me that.

Until it’s time to get ready for school in the morning 😉

When I look at you, turning 16, I see a lot of myself. But I see so much more, and someone totally different.

For your sixteenth birthday, I want things for you that I can’t possibly give you: happiness, love, friendship, wisdom, health, success, grace, hope, and laughter, to name a very few. I hope we can point you in the right direction to help you find those things and what they mean to you.

I have no idea where you will go in life or how you will decide to get there. That’s one of the coolest, most frightening, and beautiful things I have ever seen. You are growing up. And we get to be a part of it.

 

Author: Michael Valliant

I am a father, a writer, a runner, a hiker, reader, follower of Christ, a longboard skateboarder, stand-up paddleboarder, kayaker, novice birder, sunrise chaser, daily coffee drinker, occasional beer sipper. I live in Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where I am the Assistant for Adult Christian Education and Small Groups at Christ Church Easton by day. I am on a walk of faith, a spiritual adventure, following where God leads, sharing my story as it unfolds.

One thought on “Sixteen”

  1. Just happened to cross over to your post for the first time. So glad I did, and hope I can find it again. You are an amazing Dad and a very inspiring human being. Continue on your journey. And thank you for sharing!!
    Mary Wilson

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