A Letter to My Son on His 13th Birthday

We interrupt the Nepal travelogue to bring you this shocking news: I am now the mother of two teens! How is that possible?

photo taken March ’08, at Great-Grandma’s 90th Birthday Party

Dear Aidan,

Some parents will tell their teenagers that “it seems like only yesterday” that they were born, that they were learning to sit up or walk. And I’m sure it’s true for them – I’m not knocking it. But you and I both know that it’s been a long road in this family. And while I can’t believe you’re 13 (!), it doesn’t feel like yesterday that you were little.

Of course I remember holding you, rocking you, singing to you. But I also remember that soon after you were born, Nigel began exhibiting signs of autism, which we didn’t know at the time. And then both of you exhibited extreme sensory distress and significant language delays. For a while, I thought I had two boys with autism. And while you were never officially diagnosed, you also had special needs that had to be addressed.

But whether you had special needs or not, you have always been special to me, and important. I just want to make sure you know that. Because in spite of having your own needs, you have often had to take a back seat to someone whose needs overrode yours. And you have always done so with love and acceptance. I know you often felt like you were the older brother, having to look out for Nigel. When you were younger, you wondered why your brother acted the way he did. I know you still do. And I know it’s been hard for you, especially at school, to carve out your own identity separate from your brother’s and to deal with the comments of small-minded peers.

I so admire you for your perseverance, and your courage. You faced a scary health problem earlier this year, and I know how that worried you. I was worried too. I’m so relieved that the surgery was successful and that you’ve recovered. Your best friend moved away a few months ago, and that’s been hard for you too. But you started hanging out with other kids and made the best of it, and I’m so proud of you. You’ve even started eating new foods. You are resilient, responsible, and resourceful.

I love your amazing, intelligent, creative mind. I’m in awe of the questions you pose and the deep, philosophical discussions we’ve had. I enjoy curling up on the couch with you and watching movies. I’ve missed that so much this summer! And I’ve missed you. I’m sorry I can’t be with you on your birthday, but you’ll be home soon, and we’ll make up for it. I’m glad you’re having this time with your dad, because that’s important too. I know you miss him a lot during the school year, and you do the best you can with that. Like I said, it’s been a long road in this family.

Happy Birthday, Aidan. I’m so happy that you’re my son, for so many reasons. I hope that your first year of your teens is way cool!

All my love,


P.S. Being a teen has its privileges. You’ll be happy to know that I’m finally getting you a cell phone.

23 thoughts on “A Letter to My Son on His 13th Birthday

  1. Kate

    That was so beautiful. Wish I had someone to tell me those things when I was younger and now. I did get some of that tonight in a phone call with my uncle tonight….was lucky. You write so beautifully. Have a goodnight!

  2. Paulene Angela

    “It doesn’t feel like yesterday that you were little”.

    Oh how I know that feeling, had it just the other day watching some neighbours little tots learning to walk and then I looked around to see my 16 year old watching too.

    You’ve got a great team there Tanya, well done and Happy Birthday Aidan

  3. Michelle S

    What a wonderful letter to your son! And a woot to the cell phone! My 9 year old just found my old one (not connected anymore) and has taken to carrying it around and pretending like he’s texting. ugh. Happy BIrthday Aidan

  4. Cheryl

    Loved the letter…sniff – sniff! Happy Birthday, Aidan! The boys can’t wait for the party and are really looking forward to helping you celebrate!

  5. Kim

    what a wonderful letter! I just found your blog and have enjoyed reading a little. I’m looking forward to going back and reading more of past posts as well as new ones in the future!

  6. Grandma Madeline

    Happy Day of Your Birth, Aidan! A teenager now! I can remember your loving Mom’s 13th birthday, and how she got her own bedroom that day, and no longer shared one with your Uncle Alexis, and Aunt Macrina. We didn’t have cell phones in “those days”! Wow — can I call you and bug you?! See you soon with a big hug! Love, Grandma Madeline.

  7. Rick Fitzgerald

    Happy birthday Aidan! Hope it was a good one, we should hit the go cart track again and try and beat Nigel and your mom again. Take care, your friend allways……Rick

  8. Holly

    A cell phone–no way!! Just kidding! and happy birthday to your newest teen. Happy days! And it’s amazing how Aidan look just like you!!

  9. dynamite girl

    Happy birthday Aiden, you are one lucky kid, my 13 year is still wishing he would have got a phone for his birthday, rather than socks. Two, teenagers Tonya, now I know you really are an amazing women.

  10. Macrina

    congrats, Aidan! How does it feel to be a teenager? Now you know it all, right? Just kidding, you’re a smart one, but you can learn new things even as an adult! Hope your birthday was great, and build up those thumb muscles for texting!

  11. Lex Savko

    Hey Aidan! I’m so glad you had such a wonderful birthday. Niika and I sure enjoyed having you come over that weekend. We’re looking forward to giving you a call on your new phone! Congratulations!

  12. Anastasia

    Hooray for Aidan! I can not believe you are already a teenager! Your birthday this year was extra special for ME because I got to see you down here in LA for it! I know you are going to enjoy these next few years so much and you will create so many wonderful experiences and memories. I can not wait to get a call from my nephew on his new cell phone! I love you!

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