Ben, you are thirteen today - 13! A teenager! You are very excited about this, as well as starting high school in the fall. Your mom has some catching up to do..... 

It was yesterday that you were starting kindergarten, a few short months since you were toddling around and presenting your baby sister with stuffed animals, hardly a season since you were born and I held your perfect, tiny little body for the first time. How can you be taking on the world already? I am proud and excited and anxious and scared all at once.

I know you will be a great thirteen, you already have the advantage of not being a typical preteen - you still see the world as a place of endless possibility and treat everyone in it with kindness. You think of others and their feelings and try to make the people you love happy. You approach the world without self consciousness and with an openess and vulnerability that I wish I had when I was your age, I am amazed at the ease you have in the world and the joy you find in it. I know that it isn't easy for you, I know that you have struggles and loneliness and fears, but your family will always be here, and hopefully you will make a few more friends in the coming year who see you and love you for who you are.

Karate continues, you still know everything there is to know about Dr Who, you enjoy reading about the exploits of Big Nate and the wimpy kid, and Uncle Grandpa, which I utterly fail to understand, but it's fun to listen to you giggle away as you show me a video. I hope you never stop sharing what you love with me. You are still the best big brother, a friend and confidante for your sister as she starts to experience her preteen awareness and issues.

You are about to set off on an adventure, a journey into young adulthood and eventually puberty. You will jump into this as I look on in wonder and worry silently and cheer.

You are my young man, not a boy anymore, but still full of a love and gentleness that lights up the whole world. You are my hero and my greatest teacher, and I cannot wait to see what we will learn this year.

All my love,