I met him on February 20, 2001. It was a Tuesday. When his mom called to say she was in labor I flipped backwards in my chair and was at her house before she had the phone hung up. We still had landlines then.
I was 17 years old and didn’t know what love was. It was just a word to me at that point, not an experience. But then… then I met him, wrapped tightly in a blanket, snuggled in my arms.
I finally knew love. I knew I would love him for the rest of my life. I knew I would give my life for him if I had to. I knew he would change the world, and he was only five minutes old.
I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.
I googled it once. “How to raise a teenager.” Turns out there isn’t a manual for it. He hadn’t lived with me since he was around seven years old. In those days there wasn’t acne, back talk, hormones, or the feet smell. Oh… the feet smell. No, in those days there were still sweet kisses, bedtime stories, and an odor-free bedroom. Have I mentioned the feet smell?
He moved in this summer. His first night asleep, I stood in the doorway of his bedroom and watched his blonde hair move back and forth on the pillows as he tried to get his six-foot, teenage frame comfortable. Tears streamed down my eyes as a million thoughts ran through my head.
How in the world am I going to do this? How can I possibly raise a teenager? What if I screw this up? What if he hates my cooking? Will he be okay? How can I be responsible for another human life when I’m still trying to keep myself alive? How in the world am I going to do this?
I googled “How to raise a teenager” again. Nothing new had popped up since the last time.
Love is bigger.
Bob Goff says in his book, Love Does, “You don’t need a plan; you just need to be present.” I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. But I knew love was bigger than my fears.
The love I experienced the day he came into this world was the love that would get us through this new season of life together, no matter how hard.
I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing most days, but I’ve stopped going to Google for advice, so I guess that’s progress. I’ll probably never know what I’m doing, but what I have learned in these last several months has changed my life.
Life isn’t always about you. I realize how selfish I can be. I’m 33 years old and single, and I’ve gotten pretty set in my ways. Life isn’t just about me anymore. It’s not just about my needs. I don’t get to just go do whatever I want whenever I want anymore. My decisions affect him. I’ve learned to be more conscious about what I do and say. I have accountability around every corner. He’s like a ninja who silently sneaks up on me when I’m about to stuff my face with something inappropriate. “I thought you were eating healthier.” Most days I’m grateful for that. Most days…
There is a sock thief in my house. Seriously.. how does this happen? Laundry. All. The. Time. And I swear there’s a little green monster that lives in the dryer who seeks to steal only Caleb’s socks. Being single I enjoyed living out of my laundry basket. Why fold clothes when I’m just going to wear them again? I haven’t perfected this yet. The clothes tend to stay in the dryer for a day or two, but hey.. I’m getting there. He better hope he never needs anything ironed because we’re both in trouble.
I often question my reality. Sometimes at the end of the day, I lie in bed and think to myself, there is another human being upstairs. A living, breathing, human who I’m not supposed to let die. Did I feed him today? Check. Did I sign that paper I was supposed to sign for school? Check. Where did those stupid socks go? Yay.. we survived this day and did it with a smile. But seriously.. the socks?? Remind me to tell you about the day I drove off and left him on accident.
Love is bigger than anything. Raising a teenager is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I feel ill-equipped for it everyday. Somedays I wonder if I’m making a difference in his life at all. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” The truth is, I’m going to fail daily. Probably multiple times a day. And so is he. We’re in this together and we’re still both learning how to do it as a team.
But no matter what happens in each day, love is bigger, and there’s not a day goes by I don’t say “I love you” as he kisses my cheek before bed. (Don’t tell him I told you that. He likes to pretend he’s tough.) We may want to slap each other in the midst of a struggle, but he knows he is loved, even when I’m mad. Despite all my failures in this gift of loving him through life, love covers all of those failures.
What a beautiful gift.
I’m not his mom, nor will I ever be. He has one and she has gifted him with a new opportunity at life. I’m honored to play a part in offering that gift to him, and grateful she has trusted this 33 year-old, Smurfs t-shirt wearing, overgrown child, to provide a home for him.
Today, that sweet blue-eyed boy turns 16. And I fall in love all over again, just like the day I did when he was born. I fall in love with the man of God he is becoming. The gentle heart he wears on his sleeve when he sees others hurting. The joy he shares when others celebrate and the pain he feels when others hurt. The man who opens doors for the elderly woman at church. The man who prays for the homeless. The man who buys a kid a pair of shoes because he doesn’t want his feet to get cold.
Life changes quickly and sometimes you don’t have time to prepare for it. Some days I wake up completely unprepared to walk through life with him. Other days I rock it like a champ. I’ll never get it 100% right and I’m learning to be okay with that. Because love. Love does.
Thank you, Caleb, for teaching me what it means to love. My life is better because you’re in it.
Now I’m going to go Google “How to raise a teenager who drives.” Wish me luck.