Last week my oldest child, to whom I refer as “Tom” on the blog (after Mark Twain’s mischievous character Tom Sawyer), turned twelve years old. He’s excited to be another year older and bigger. I have mixed feelings about this. Twelve is the last year of real childhood. It’s almost the beginning of teenagerdom. It’s a time to take on new freedoms and new responsibilities. It’s a time when kids start testing the limits. It’s . . . well, frankly, it’s giving me palpitations wondering how Tom’s adolescent years will be, despite the fact that I was a teacher of teenagers for several years. My guess is that, as it is for many teenagers and their parents, for Tom (and for me), his teenage years will be an exciting time that is not without it’s own particular (and I hope rare) heartaches.
Twelve years old is the beginning of the age when you begin to think [entirely incorrectly, his mother points out] that maybe, just maybe, you’re invincible. You do death-defying stunts to try to prove this to yourself, to figure out just how far you can go without getting hurt, but your annoying little brother keeps getting in your way every time you try to show everyone how great your stunts are:
Twelve years old is entering the Pacific Ocean old enough to understand of the danger of riptides but not quite old enough to have a healthy fear of them, while your mother sits on the beach with pride in her heart at you surfing and with her heart in her throat at the possiblity of you drowning:
Twelve years old means it’s time for your mom to bake you another custom birthday cake that reflects your favorite thing this year:
Happy 12th Birthday, Tom, and may the next 12 years be as amazing as the first 12 years!