Going On 17

My sweet son,

Seventeen today. It seems hard to believe that it’s already been seventeen years, but then I talk to you and it’s hard to believe that you’re still that young. You are this wonderful blend of mischievous little boy and a man wise from years of living.

Seventeen years ago, I was 29 weeks 6 days pregnant, with water that had been broken for over a week, on an incline bed with my feet higher than my head just trying to keep you in and safe for as long as possible. Your wriggles and squirms against the palm of my hand as we had a serious mom/son talk are forever imprinted in my memory, so too is that first cry we held our breaths to hear. Your barbaric yawp was much closer to a bird-like squawk, but those of us who heard it knew it was the battle cry of a warrior. And fight you have.

Your first victory was the battle just to be alive. Three times the medical team at the NICU said that you were fading away, and three times you rallied back against disastrous odds to emerge stronger every time. Never doubt that it was a hard-fought crusade, my love, your body is still scarred from the wounds that three-pound-you endured.

By the time you were six weeks old, you were battle-hardened and roared back against the world. Time, and your whirling dervish younger brother, helped to temper the tiny angry man you were into the thoughtful man I see you rapidly becoming.

The boy who hated to be held and cuddled has become the guy who yearns only to make other people happy. Last night I asked what you’d want for your birthday dinner, and you asked to be allowed to help make whatever your siblings chose to eat. Your plans for today include using your birthday money to treat them to opening day of the new Star Wars movie. You could have spent it on something for yourself, or added it to the stash you’ve saved towards your first car, but your first thought was for their comfort instead of your own, as it usually is.

Somewhere during the past seventeen years, the fierce boy has also become a thoughtful recluse. You retreat from the loud chaos-of-us to spin fantastical tales of bravery and chivalry with a touch of delightful sarcasm and wit. The secret world of your imagination blooms into life when it meets up with the written word, and those who are fortunate enough to be allowed to read it are treated to a fantastic landscape spun completely from your own imagination.

People describe you with the old trope about marching to the beat of your own drum, but I think it’s more likely you’re dancing to the tune of an ocarina and dreaming up feats and spectacles which will astound your loyal audience of readers.

Seventeen years from being frail-but-mighty to a man forging his own way through the world, resisting the mustn’ts and the impossibles, and looking forward to the suddenly possibles and the what ifs that live within your mind.

You have become an amazing person, and I’m fortunate to be able to claim you as my son.

Love forever and always,


About Rebecca Frech

Rebecca Frech is a Catholic author, speaker, CrossFit coach, and the Managing Editor of The Catholic Conspiracy website. She is the author of the best-selling books Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us and Can We Be Friends? She is a co-host of the popular podcast The Visitation Project, and is a columnist for The National Catholic Register. She and her husband live just outside Dallas with their eight children, a German Shepherd named Dave, and an ever-multiplying family of dust-bunnies.
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