The Dude turns 16.

Wow. 16 years ago today I became a mom for the first time. I’ll just let that sink in for you. …. (You may commence with the gasps and awe-filled sentiments regarding how I cannot possibly have a child that age with how young I look.)

Yes, sixteen years ago I gave birth to Noah Grey Abeyta on a rainy day at 1:24pm in Dallas, Texas. I fantasized that one day he might use just his first and middle name as a pen name. Noah Grey sounds like a writer to me. And I’ll be darned if The Dude isn’t an amazing writer of fiction. Going to an arts school and majoring in creative writing and everything. Now that I know how hard and rejection-filled the world of publishing is, I think, “Noah Abeyta would make a great doctor’s name! Dr. Noah Abeyta, World Class Neurosurgeon!” That sounds good too, right? I wonder what he’ll end up doing with his life. If he is anything like me, he will take a meandering path all along his 20s and end up super happy with where it all goes. Who knows. I tell my kids all the time, don’t focus so much on the destination, you have far less control of that than you think, so have a general hazy idea of where you want to go and buckle up and enjoy the ride. Try not to take the lows too much to heart and too personally and enjoy the highs with grand celebrations. Will Noah listen to that advice? I don’t know. If there is anything I know about this child young man? He is NOT like his mama. I doubt his journey will look a speck like mine.

Noah is an introvert. He has a group of very close, good friends, but likes to be alone just as much. Spends much of his days in his room reading, on his computer, playing games, watching tv, talking to his friends online. I joke that the neighbors don’t think he really exists and call him Boo Radley. He smirks with approval at the reference. He appreciates a good literary reference. He is so well read. He is a voracious reader and has been since he completed his first book, ‘Arthur’s New Puppy’ by Marc Brown at 3 years old. Yeah, he spoiled me on that. I thought all kids began knowing the alphabet at 12 months, then colors, then reading words at two. Books at three. I was all, “Hot DAMN, this raising kids thing is easy-peasy! They just teach themselves!” I was a stupid 24 year old that had never babysat in her life. (HA, stupid lady!! HA!!) Winnie the Pooh and Toy Story were his favorite movies to watch when he was 2. He studied them. Knowing him now and looking back then, he really was studying them – gleaning insights and lessons. He watched them over and over, asking to restart them when they were done. Sure, Sesame Street was good, but something about those two movies seemed to fascinate him. He has such a soft spot for the characters in those movies even today. I think Noah is so kind and fiercely loyal to to his friends and family because of those two movies. If either of those movies were to come on the tv today, he would sit down next to me on the couch and watch the entire thing. Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Woody and Buzz. They will always be his childhood friends. And still are. I love that.

He is quiet. He ponders things. Thinks before he speaks. Often won’t speak up if he is not familiar with a situation or does not know all the facts yet. He would rather not say anything than to not be able to back up what he says with fact or an opinion based on logical reasoning. He has such a controlled passion – I am just struck by it – probably because I am a “leap before I look” kind of person and he is an “examine the terrain, come up with a game plan, come up with a back-up plan, make sure all the safety measures have been accounted for and double-checked, and then successfully jump” kind of person. I love to debate with him when we are in the car. We tend to have the same thoughts on so many issues, so sometimes I just listen to his reasons. His reasons can be so different than my own and I am often fascinated how I had never thought of something a certain way. Sometimes I make him argue the opposite of what he believes to test him. He hates that, but he can do it. He is very black and white, so I always try to get him to see the other side of even the most divisive of issues. Have compassion, respect and tolerance, I tell him over and over – don’t ever forget that someone feels just as passionately, but the exact opposite as you, and is another human being. Just because they don’t think like you does not make them deserving of less compassion, tolerance or respect. With what is on the news and Facebook these days, I repeat that often to both my kids. All the time.

Noah and I are so different in so many ways, but one thing we share is a sense of humor. He gets my sarcasm, he gets my references whether it is literary or scientific. I adore when we can just look at each other and I know he gets the joke I just made with just a look and a raised eyebrow. He does not get mad when I tease him. And I do – mercilessly. He teases back. He knows he can. We get each other that way. He knows, “Dunderhead’ is a term of affection from me. When I hear a joke I know he would like (usually cerebral) I will text it to him or excitedly tell him in person. If I am lucky, I get a text back that says, “Funny, woman.” or if it is in person, he may say, “I’m not laughing, but that is pretty funny.” SCORE! I mean, he is a NORMAL 16 year old, he certainly cannot give his mother too many accolades – that would just be weird. He keeps me on the edge of my seat, trying to get his approval. He knows that. He loves that. Sadly we also share a New Jersey potty mouth – but we know the rules. Never outside the house or outside the car and not when guests are in the house – especially around your grandparents! (Although he makes the strong argument that Grandma is just as bad. Sorry, Mom – but then, I get MY potty mouth from you. Hee. But he still cannot cuss in front of you.)

Noah is so much like his step-dad at times you would think they were biologically related. They are very close and have so much respect for each other in a quiet, but very strong way. I don’t even think they know how strong their bond is yet. Noah once noted years ago how alike they both are and asked if that was weird that he related so much to his step-dad even though they are not related. I told him that certain people just resonate with each other. If you think of every human being in the world making up a giant tree, certain personality types are all on the same branch – related or not, making up the leaves on that one limb. My husband and Noah are leaves on the same branch. Sophie and I? Are on another branch way far away. FAR AWAY. Probably on a different tree. It is funny how much alike they are though. Often times at dinner I will see them both rolling their eyes and shaking their heads in unison at something Sophie and I are saying and doing. Two peas in two different pods in the same family. It’s all kinds of awesome.

Noah is a junior this year. He will start driving this year. Take the SATs this year. Seriously begin thinking about colleges this year. College. Ugh. How did that happen so fast? Noah is not in any rush to grow up fast, which can be both maddening and relieving at the same time. I daydream about sending him to the store for me or some other errand, but then I really think about him having that kind of independence and I get so sad that the day he moves out is closer than I care to admit.

Noah carries around my heart with him and he doesn’t know it. Well, maybe he does. He knows if he asks for something and ends it with ‘Can I …, Mommy?’ the answer is almost always yes. Yes, I’m a sucker. He made me a mother before I knew I wanted to be one. Certainly before I was ready to be one at 23. That boy made it so easy to be a mom that I came to adore being a mom more than anything else in the world. The night he was born, I sat up in my hospital bed holding him, not being able to sleep because I could not stop looking at him. The nurses tried to take him so many times to get me to sleep and rest, but I would not let them. I just couldn’t let go of him. That day, at 3am, I made a promise to a teeny baby boy that no matter what life threw at me, I would show him how amazing life could be by how I live my life. I wanted desperately to be sure he had an amazing life. And even though, as he gets older, I am keenly aware how different we each choose to live our lives, and how different his choices might be than any I would ever make, I know he will have an amazing life. Because he is amazing. I was in awe of him when he was hours old and I am in awe of him sixteen years later. Happy Birthday, Dude. I love you to infinity and beyond.

And because I know he will pretend to be irritated, but will secretly love this, I am posting a picture of Noah at 7 years old and one taken about a month ago when I went to wake up him. At about 3pm. Ahem.

SO CUTE, RIGHT??? (I will pay for this.) BUT, I tell people when I read them my book, Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster, to note the page from the bedroom scene that has a bear on the bed. I got that bear when I was 9 years old. That bear heard many secrets, has many tears cried into that fur. He went to college with me. He has seen my whole life. I gave it to Noah when he was born. I called him Norton, Noah renamed him Normie. I can’t tell you how much it means that he ‘gets’ the magic of Normie.

“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh”

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