Thirteen. Its a pretty loaded number don’t you think? A number both filled with magic and accused of wickedness.
Sometimes lucky, sometimes avoided. Its definitely a number of many emotions. Often feared, other times revered. Thirteen apostles at the last supper, but thirteen witches make a coven. Thirteen. In some faiths, the year a boy becomes a man. And for the math nerds, its one of the “happy numbers.” Thirteen has got to be the number with the most electric charge to it. I mean, what other number elicits a reaction just by mentioning it? I am sitting here today thinking long and hard about this mystical, biblical, allusive number, thirteen.
Whether you love it, hate it, its lucky or its sinister to you; to me, this is what thirteen looks like today:
1. Thirteen (thousand) times I’ve told you to hurry up.
I wish I could take back most, if not all of these times. Some children never make it to thirteen, and here you are; arrived, perfectly on time, even though I kept asking you to hurry. To this and to that, to speed up time, pressuring you to make the moments pass faster so we could get out the door, get through a meal, get somewhere.. through a year, through a childhood. I take them all back now. Please slow down. I will never ask you to hurry again. I know every time I did, I was missing out on the really important stuff. Like your thirteen different smiles and thirteen different laughs.
2. Thirteen different smiles, at least.
You have showed me, or tried to, while I was too busy looking away, how beautiful your face is every time it lights up in one of your many uniquely yours, smiles. You have funny ones, sweet ones, curious and surprised ones. Smiles that have melted me, made me laugh and smiles that are so perfect, they have made me cry on the spot. Your thirteen smiles have changed from innocent and unaware, to proud and confident over your thirteen years. A smile, something so simple, has left an impact on me so great. Please keep showing me all of these and at least thirteen more.
3. Thirteen more stories to tell me.
If you ever have something you’d like to tell me, I will shut my mouth, then zip it up with thirteen strips of duck tape, and listen. I would spend thirteen minutes or thirteen hours listening to any one of your stories if you will keep telling them to me. I don’t ever want to wake up one day, thirteen or more years from now, to realize you’ve given up on telling me your stories. If I could bottle up your words on a shelf as they are now, honest and perfect, and keep them there, to open every time I long to hear your sweet thirteen year old voice, slightly cracking from its boyish sound as it develops into the grownup version, I would.
4. Thirteen favorite meals.
If only you would sit and eat with me thirteen thousand more times, I would make at least thirteen thousand more of your favorite meals in rotation forever. I know this won’t happen, but I have to ask. Soon, you will be spending more of your meals out with friends, girlfriends and someday, maybe even a wife and family. But for now, though I may only have thirteen hundred or so meals left with you together at our table, I will promise you thirteen of your favorites if it means I get to spend a little more time with you before you go. It won’t be long before you are running off into thirteen different directions of your life, that won’t often include me or our meals together, but maybe thirteen of so times a year if I am lucky; thirteen times a month if I am really lucky. A mother can hope.
5. Thirteen pairs of dirty socks.
I promise I won’t badger you about dirty socks, shirts, pants and the rest of the troops anymore. I know, one day all too soon, there will come a time when I will open your bedroom door to find only thirteen of my last read books, thirteen dozen papers in stacks on a desk, or thirteen of your little sister’s barbies scattered around where dirty socks once were. Because your room will no longer house those dirty socks and dirty shirts strewn around the floor that presently make me just slightly batty, and I will wish to heck that it still did.
6. Thirteen more adventures.
I hope there will still be thirteen more times your suitcase is crammed in the back of the car with us. If I’m lucky, we will get to spend at least thirteen more vacations that start with being squished together for miles, bickering and laughing, sleeping on each other’s shoulders. Thirteen more airport security screens, when you get to hold your ticket and show your own i.d. as a young adult does, who has their own identity to show. I hope for thirteen more silly car games, thirteen more chances to hear you ask if you can press the down button in the elevator, get your turn to use the room key. Thirteen more hotel pools with hot tubs that yes, you are old enough now to sit in with the grown ups, as long as you sit with your heart lifted out of the water ever thirteen minutes or so, you know, for safety.
7. Thirteen new facebook friends.
I know this new privilege doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but it is huge to me. I want you to keep asking me with each new friend request, whether or not its an ok friend to have. I love that you ask me. That you still value my opinion. In fact, I hope there will be thirteen more times at least, that you tell me about new real life friendships you make, friendships you break, friendships that hurt, heal, thrive and grow, and why. Its the why I care most about. Please give me at least thirteen more whys. You may not understand now, but friendships are going to be so important as you keep getting older. They are the foundation for so many things. They will help shape you into understanding more about who you are, who you are capable of being, and even who you want to avoid becoming. They will be the beginnings of more serious relationships, partnerships and maybe one day, more. Please let me have input on at least thirteen more friends that come into your life before you are sure you can make these important decisions on your own. I know you don’t need me to, but I hope I can tell you at least thirteen more times that: You are the company you keep. Its so true, you know.
8. Thirteen more whys.
I know these have already started to taper off. They used to come fast and furious just a few short years ago. Why is water clear? Why can’t I stay up until eleven? Why does the fridge not make chocolate pudding cups instead of ice cubes in the automatic maker? Why can’t I eat pie for breakfast when you do? Why do we have to all go together as a family? Why can’t we watch movies all day? Promise me there will still be a few more whys. Even as you may not need the answer from me as much because you may already know, or know how to find it, promise me you will still ask them every once in a while? Promise me too, that as the whys begin to shift, and I am the one asking them of you, that you will take care in answering them honestly. Soon it will be my turn to want to know all your whys and remember how earnestly you wanted, needed those answers? I will too.
9. Thirteen more times to catch you being good.
This is an easy one, I know. There will be at least thirteen thousand more times, I’m sure of it, but some of those will be long after I’m gone, or you are off giving these moments to others. Give me at least thirteen more times I can stash away in my memory to pull out later when I’m missing these magical opportunities to witness the goodness in you. Times when I come around the corner to find you all on your own sitting and reading to your little brother or sister, teaching them the secret to a magic trick, or giggling uncontrollably with your oldest little brother, in your bunks, when its supposed to be lights out, about nothing but uncontrollably funny good stuff. I have caught you being good at least thirteen thousand times before, but I want more. Catching you has been the best.
10. Thirteen more movie dates.
Let’s keep quoting our favorite movies and getting overpriced popcorn and junior mints and splitting the ginormous pepsi that we can never actually finish, while we watch the latest flick together in that dark room with the loud, life size images we’ve been anticipating for weeks. Give me thirteen more of these at least, before my role as your movie date is replaced forever. We’ve been movie buddies for so long now, I love watching your face light up when I ask, Wanna go see a movie? Just thirteen or so more, ok? I know this road is quickly coming to an end, but I will always see a great new movie preview and think first of wanting to go watch it with you sitting next to me.
11. Thirteen more grocery trips.
You are such a help to me when I can drag you to these. I know, these trips seem like very unlucky chores to you, but to me they are golden opportunities, precious hours when I get you all to myself. To see your decision-making skills, the way your mind works, how you handle social situations, use math, think of our family’s likes and dislikes, use the manners I’ve been teaching you for the last thirteen years, practice patience, practice kindness, practice hard work. Thank you for always agreeing to jump in and come along when I ask for a team mate in you for the grocery trips. You make a great one. You impress me with your strength of carrying 3 bags at once and two jugs of milks in and out of the car, and your ability to reason as to why we actually do need 48 blueberry muffins, and you promise to eat them all and not forget about them before they grow ice fuzz in the freezer like last time. Just thirteen more trips, that’s all I ask.
12. Thirteen chances to teach you to drive.
I haven’t even gotten to this point with you yet, but I can’t wait to. Just give me thirteen chances before you insist your dads teach you. If you are anything like me, you may need more than thirteen chances to get it just right, but I can’t wait to get started. You have been curious about all things with motors and how they work, since you were a little guy. First it was planes, then trains, then cars. Your interest never ceases to amaze me in all things mechanical. You can take any machine with a “brain” apart and figure out how it works, and then, even more astonishing, you can put it back together again. With that kind of natural curiosity and respect for making things work, I know you will do great things in your life with your gift of being “technical.” I hope the start of it will be giving me thirteen chances at helping you learn to drive. Once you’ve mastered it, a whole new world of respect will open up for the magnitude and impact of the relationship between machines and people. One even greater than anything you’ve known before by simulation, is getting into the actual driver’s seat. It’s right up your alley, I can’t wait to show you, I know you are just going to love it.
13. Thirteen kinds of candy.
I want to make sure you have me buy you at least thirteen more kinds of candy. I spent a long time when you were very little stressing over your eating habits. You may have never heard this until now. I would ask the doctor at each visit what I could do to get you to eat more, so that I was sure you were thriving, because you were always a tiny little person. The docs all had the same advice: offer plenty of healthy food and snacks, as often as possible, avoid sugary treats, and eventually things would level out and you would grow just fine. And you did. You have grown into a very perfectly-normal sized teenaged young man, healthy and strong. But I wish I would have not taken this advice so seriously. I should have given you more candy and treats when you wanted them. I have thought long and hard about this, and the fact is, you are not going to be harmed much by me giving in to these kinds of requests. I was so adamant about good eating habits, I think I forgot some of the fun and magic of being a little kid. Kids want to go onto the ice cream shop and order 3 large scoops of the best-looking ice cream, with cherries and whipped cream and candy sprinkles on top. They want to stroll down the candy aisles and grab the biggest bag of M&Ms they can find, and then dip them in caramel sauce, along with practically any other eye-catching confection that strikes their fancy. You were always asking me when you were little: Can I get this? And at least 99 times out of 100, I said: No, not this time baby. But you know what? I should have said yes. What’s the harm in saying yes? Really? I hope to get you at least thirteen kinds of candy between now and when you no longer need me to buy the sugary treats, because you will have money of your own, and by then, I sincerely hope you will keep eating candy every once in a while. I don’t care much about the health effects here, I am not talking about becoming a glutton, but I do think we should stop, take a moment, and just every once in a while say yes, and eat some candy. Its delicious, and it reminds us all of being little. I want you to remember me getting you thirteen different kinds of candy, and eating it with you. Not saying: no, not this time. Because as I am learning on this first day of your thirteenth year, if not now, then when? I hardly doubt you will come running over to me in thirteen more years and tug on my shirt and ask for a snickers bar.
Thirteen ways of I love you.
There has been least this many ways in your lifetime that I have told you. Some ways have been silly, some ways more thoughtful, all ways have been heartfelt. Some ways have been from the depths of my soul, some ways were a quick string of words as we parted. Some ways whispered in your ear when you were tiny and sleeping in my arms, some ways through clenched teeth and when I wanted to say many, many other things instead. I hope you know that for every way I’ve ever uttered the words, I’ve meant them. I love you. Thirteen million zillion times over and in every way imaginable.