Every kid of mine on their birthday (through age 18) gets a birthday letter on the blog, from me. At first, it started out as something fun to do, but it has transformed into one of my favorite things I do on my kids’ birthdays. The written word is powerful. It is forever.
So, without any further delay, here’s my letter to John Paul in celebration of his 17th birthday!
Dear John Paul,
You are the kid that brings the sunshine and levity to our house, every day. A few weeks ago, you were following Anna-Laura and I home from daily Mass in your car. We both looked over and you were wearing your crazy sunglasses and smile-laugh-waving. “What are we going to do when he graduates and leaves the house, Mom?” Anna-Laura inquired. I held up my hand because I cannot go there. You are too precious to us.
In the middle of pandemic, while most of your friends were knee-deep in video games and chip bags, you put in your application to work at Chick-Fil-A. In a short 48 hours, you had the job and a few days after that, you started your first shift. While we love the discount and the many life skills you’re gaining, it is your work ethic I have loved watching. This is one of many “big boy” things you’re beginning to take on, and with each one I just get more proud of you and your generous, hard-working heart.
The big news this year is that you’re now brace-free. And your teeth look amazing! Mom advice: don’t forget to wear your retainer. It’s too bad so few people know, but maybe when masks start to phase out, you can show them off later this year.
Your love for the Jets and Mets (and Aggies, for that matter) never waivered this year. You are loyal, John Paul, no matter what. And while it may break your heart sometimes, that is a trait that will serve you well.
That room of yours? It requires a hazmat suit. You leave your shoes all over the house (like mother, like son). The leftovers never last long. Whataburger is always what’s for an afternoon snack. And you’re officially taller than me. Thanks for reminding me every morning.
I don’t know where God is going to take you in the coming years, but I know that with your positive disposition, your generous heart and your love of Jesus, it will be spectacular.
The pandemic interrupted your altar serving duties, but I have seen a real love of the liturgy and the Eucharist emerge. No matter the vocation you pursue, it will be rooted in goodness, and that’s all a mom can ask.
And, if I may get a touch sentimental… Having you step up to serve as the crossbearer for your grandfather’s funeral made me weep, not out of sadness, but out of gratitude. Thank you for serving so well. Papa was incredibly proud of the man you were growing to be. He never hestitated to share just how much. The memory of you, serving with such reverence, will always be with me.
You are a leader among your peers, beloved by your siblings and the heart of our home. We are holding tight to these next 18 months, as you dive into discernment and preparation. Won’t it be wonderful?
Keep listening to what Jesus is asking of you. There are so many things I hope for you. May you always know your biggest gaggle of cheerleaders is right here. May 2021 be a spectacular year full of growth, laughter, love and memories. We couldn’t do life without you.