Before either of my kids turned thirteen, I’d begun to hear stories of how other parents had marked such special milestones in their kids’ lives. Some ideas overwhelmed me, but one idea seemed perfect for our family. About three months prior to the day Nick would become a teenager, I sent out requests via Facebook and email to family members, friends, and a group of camp staff that both my kids grew up with.
This request simply asked them to reply back with a short note, story, or some sort of art that I could include in a photo book I was going to have made by one of the numerous companies online (Shutterfly, York, etc.). I encouraged the writers to speak into Nick’s life, offer him some advice, share with him a favorite song, passage of Scripture, poem, etc., to help celebrate his foray into the teenage years. I wasn’t really sure what the response would be, but I figured it was a worthwhile cause.
Over the next month the emails, photos, and messages began to come in. While I should have seen it coming, I didn’t expect these unique contributions to be so meaningful. Each and every message, no matter how long or short, serious or funny, was such a wonderful gift of wisdom and encouragement for my son. There were stories of teenage experiences that people shared with Nick. There were gems of advice from aunts, uncles, grandparents, young adults, and friends that I wish every thirteen-year-old could read.
One young adult who we knew through our church community and who Nick looks up to wrote, “Go to God, go to Him for everything. He will walk with you and lead you into where you are to go. There is nothing He loves more than to be with you.”
One of my son’s grandfathers offered a couple verses that he himself had memorized when he was thirteen years old, including 1 Timothy 4:12, which says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example to the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, your faith and your purity.”
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example to the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, your faith and your purity.”
Notes of encouragement and Scripture literally fill this book from people that Nick looks up to, admires, and respects.
It was such a special gift; we did it all over again for our daughter when she turned thirteen. When our daughter, Maddie, received her book, she had the idea to highlight in her Bible all the passages of Scripture mentioned by family and friends in their notes.
Over the years, I’ve read and participated in ideas like this book that mark milestones in the lives of children, like a thirteenth or eighteenth birthday. I’ve heard of special family gatherings where the older relatives spoke wisdom; ceremonies where special gifts were presented or a formal blessing bestowed publicly; hand-written letters delivered in a box; and even a “texting barrage” timed for the morning of the birthday. One family I know had their loved ones record 10-20 second video clips on their phones, and the parents then created a powerful video for their child. As the parents of teenagers, we invest a lot of time, money, and energy into academic wisdom and athletic coaching in our children’s middle and high school years. And, as parents who desire that our children grow in their relationships with God, this milestone marking is one way to reinforce our children’s identity in Christ and remind them that they are loved and celebrated. Having family members, mentors, and friends speak into their lives can make a huge impact on our young people, shaping their hearts for years to come.