Today you turned 12. Aside from it being My favorite number, and that you are My Favorite Son (hee hee), turning 12 is important: it means this is your last year as a pre-teen.
But those teenage years--however they will be--are yet to come. For this last year, I've noticed a growing admiration of you...in Me. Most parents would state unequivocally that they love their children, as I do, but "admire"? And at such an early age? Not often.
One incident will do. Think back to the championship basketball game We were in last year. Down 18-17 (what an astonishingly low score) and with 9 seconds to go, We lost the ball on a turnover. I called timeout and I could see that the team was devastated. Even you were chagrined at the situation. Though I spoke to the team, I was looking at you: We need a steal. I repeated it to get the boys to think that with 9 seconds left, getting the ball back meant We had a chance. And We did.
You all took your positions and I watched as you crouched against the boy you were guarding, intent on him and the inbound pass. The tableau seemed to freeze and once again, I felt calm. Secure. I knew...because I'd seen it before.
The pass almost took too long and the other team's boy nearly panicked as his target--the boy you were guarding--had no chance to get free and receive the pass. The ball came out and you pounced. Without hesitation, you passed cleanly to Our top scorer, hitting him perfectly in stride. He drove to the basket, rose for a floater...and got grabbed, pushed off-balance by his defenders. The ball rattled out and the buzzer sounded.
We lost. No whistle. No call. No win.
It was hard to accept. But all I could think about was how once again, when the game was on the line, you made the play. Like you did in your first year when you guarded the biggest kid in your league, almost a foot taller than you and held him scoreless in the last period, including a key "non-defense" move that saved a technical foul in a one-point victory. Or in your first All Star Game, which you were supposed to be picked for and got passed over, then invited as a last-minute replacement: an MVP performance with 4 points, 10 rebounds and the key steal to seal the game. Or your second All Star Game when I sent you in with a minute left in a 22-20 game to "get rebounds" and you did--twice--to seal the victory.
You see, Son, not everyone can come through in pressure situations. In fact, most people don't. They shy away from the "Put up or shut up" moments, they make excuses and deny making excuses. They blame the world and never step up...but you do. And you deliver.
That's rare, and precious. You do it in sports and I'm seeing you do it in other areas as well. It's like you're expanding your skills in ways that took Me years to even fathom, much less improve. A part of that is due to your mother, stepfather and their relatives, a part of it from your cousins, aunt, stepmother and friends, and I know a part of it is from My being your father, but in the end, all of it is You.
Your successes are your own and as much as We may feel pride in them, whatever you achieve should be for your own reasons. Like playing defense with the ferocious intensity that makes your teammates want you to guard someone else or tackling math with high-energy skill or adapting to the moment and situation while remaining essentially You, these are all praiseworthy, yet keep doing them for yourself rather than for anyone else. You're on the right path to being happier than most, and more successful as well.
Maybe this year We'll win a championship together. You know I want that very much. But whether We do or don't, I'll be proud of you and your effort, admiring of your skills and determination and pleased beyond reason that My Son is well on his way to becoming a better man than I.
However, I still play chess better.
I love you, Kaleb. You're a gift of love every day of the year.
The Jenius Has Spoken.