Is it too cliche to ask "where has the time gone?" Weren't you just my little baby, born five weeks early, to two young kids in love but clueless on how to raise a human? How are you turning eighteen years old tomorrow? Why has your childhood flown by in the blink of an eye, when there were so many days that I couldn't wait for you to outgrow a certain phase, reach a certain milestone, become more independent? And now that you've arrived a young man, are you ready?
Have your dad and I done enough to prepare you for the real world? Have we protected your innocence for as long as possible while still getting you ready to go out on your own? That's a very fine line to walk as a parent, you know. To shield you from danger but teach you how to be strong. There were plenty of times, I'm sure, where we held on a little too tightly, but it's only because we couldn't bear the thought of your heart being broken.
From the beginning of your life, you have honestly been such a wonderful child. Born on my birthday, I always tell you that you are my favorite gift. You were a content baby, so easy to please and quick to smile. I could lay you down anywhere and you would put yourself to sleep, no fuss, no drama. You grew into the sweetest toddler who wanted nothing more than to please your parents. I have so many videos showcasing your obedience and willingness to help. At the ripe old age of four, you became the oldest of four children, and though the world probably thought I was in over my head, I knew I had such a mature little helper in you.
Once you started school, your intelligence and excellent behavior became a model for your siblings. You were always found with your nose in a book and read so fast that we were unable to pre-read books before you got your hands on them. So instead, you promised to tell me if anything was "inappropriate" in the book, and would stop reading it if that was the case. You would then make sure your siblings didn't read anything that was too mature for their ages. We completely trusted you and you've never given us a reason not to. Sometimes I wished you didn't have to shoulder the responsibilities of being the oldest in a large family, but it never seemed to bother you. You accepted your position joyfully and were constantly excited for a new sibling. Your dad and I often acknowledge that God chose the best leader of our crew.
You have a gentle, quietly funny personality and were always able to make great friends. Friends that we would have hand-picked for you if it were up to us. These friends could see your sweet charm, your easy laugh, and your desire to be holy. As you grew up, people would mention that you would make a good priest, but you seemed to know you wanted to be a dad and work in the medical field. However, that didn't stop you from willingly signing up for discernment retreats, pro-life retreats, youth group events, etc. You just loved to be involved in everything! You belonged to so many sports teams even though you weren't the best, you had fun being part of the team. You started working at age fourteen to save money for college, understanding our financial situation. You became an altar server after your First Communion, and have served faithfully every Mass since then. We will miss seeing your leadership on the altar once you leave for college.
I have tremendous consolation knowing that God loves you even more than I, and He will help you navigate your future. I pray to Our Lady to be with you always and mother you when I can't. I'm leaving you in good hands, trusting that you're ready to become an adult and grateful to have spent all of these wonderful years with you. We are blessed to know you and grow you John-Paul Martin and we love you to the moon and back. Happy 18th Birthday son.
Love always and forever,