Here is the speech I delivered at my son's 18th birthday party. I only nearly cried once.
"Eighteen. One Eight. One plus eight. Numbers. Just numbers. But in the context of a birthday, they hold special significance. They mark a change in status. Aged eighteen, a young person is eligible to vote, they can legally purchase and consume alcohol, they are, in the eyes of the law and in the opinion of themselves and their peers, adults.
What do you say when your son turns eighteen? When the baby you cradled, carried, fed and clothed, no longer needs you to supply those physical needs? When he prefers the company of his friends, especially his girlfriend, to our company? What do you say when he’s already been moving away from you, becoming more independent, and now the numbers one eight make the separation seem official? What do you say when your son turns eighteen?
You say Happy Birthday son, and you reminisce a little before giving him some well chosen words of wisdom.
I recall the time I dropped James when he was a baby and he hit his head on the coffee table. I remember the extreme stress I suffered every time he went out to bat, or ran on to the footy field. I recollect the highs and lows, uncontrollable laughter on the way home from Runaway Vacation. Rocking out together at the POD/Disturbed concert. His first metal gig. (Sadly, he’s moved away a bit from metal into lullaby music.) The pain and fear of a major back injury and the surgery to correct it.
Through it all, we have loved James with a love so deep and strong that it is beyond his comprehension. We have nurtured the precious gift that God gave us. A son for whom we have prayed every day, even while he was in the womb.
My parting sage words are about success. The true measure of success in my eyes, is that a man knows himself: where he stands and what he stands for, and who he is, in God’s eyes. Our love for James is unquestionably strong and resolute, but it pales in the light of God’s perfect love which is unconditional, unshakable and unrelenting.
Follow God all the days of your life, James. Remember that you stand, not in judgement or under condemnation, neither mired in guilt or shame, but you stand in grace. Like all of us, not perfect just forgiven.
What do you say when your son turns eighteen?
Here’s to you James, my beloved son. A work in progress upon whom we gaze and exclaim, “so far, so good.” Happy Birthday!"