Why does 14 seem so much older than 13? Is it just me? I consider 13 to still be on the EDGE of being a teenager. Not really a true big kid yet. Maybe it's just me. Now that Spencer is on the verge of turning 14, I can't really pretend anymore that he's not a young man. I think this is maybe particularly true for Spence, who is truly man-sized at 5'11" and about 175 lbs. He's not a little boy anymore.
This has been a year of continued growth for Spence - and not just the physical kind. I don't know that he's made as many GIANT leaps of growth as he has in years past, but he's fine tuning his personality, his belief system, and his goals. And honestly, I can't imagine being happier with the direction he's going. The path he's chosen makes me proud to be his mom.
I think Spencer is a little odd in how quickly he's matured. I don't think most 14 year-olds spend as much time thinking about long term plans. I don't think it's typical for kids his age to understand the impact they can have on others. I can't explain why Spencer is how he is. It's impossible to talk about him without sounding like I'm bragging (which I could totally do!), but really I'm just sharing who he is.
Spencer has developed some pretty impressive leadership skills and wants to be better in this area. He actively looks for ways to lead and help those around him. He made a conscience effort throughout this football season to help ALL his teammates - the starters, the second string, the scout teams, the 7th graders, the girls, the kids who never play. It doesn't matter to him. He treats them all the same. He wants them all to get better. I only know this because I have had MANY parents tell me about how much THEIR kids talk about how awesome MY son is. Do you have any idea how proud that makes me? There are kids talking to their parents about what a good PERSON Spencer is and about how much they respect him. These kids don't talk about what a good football player he is... they talk about him as a friend and leader. There's a reason he got the most Captain votes this year and gets the honor of helping to lead this team. He earned the respect of his peers through his actions as well as his words.
The fact that he's a beast on the football field doesn't hurt much either. He's earned the right to play both ways and picked up 22 tackles in just 4 games this season. He is dominant. He's bigger and stronger than most - more driven than nearly all. He wants it more. He has personal goals taped in his locker, which his coach told me he's only seen a couple other times in 10 years of coaching. The goals he taped up were his idea... not something anyone suggested or asked him to do. None of the other kids have done this. He wants to get better and he works constantly to get there. He does sit-ups and push-ups and pull-ups every night. He hits the Smith machine in our basement on days he doesn't have practice. He eats a better diet than anyone else in the house - all high protein and low carb. I wish I had half his willpower. We know he's likely just about down growing in height, but he's no where near his physical potential. I fully expect him to continue to get stronger and stronger, which will pair nicely with his knowledge of the sports he plays. He is a sponge and as he learns more, anticipates more, and gains experience, his attitude and drive will take him far.
It doesn't hurt that he's a bright kid (most of the time). He doesn't have to work as hard at school work as others. He does have to study and do homework now (which hasn't always been the case) and he's not a perfect straight-A student, but he's very bright. He is still taking all honors classes and essentially working through 10th grade math this year. He somehow keeps up with the demands of his education while also balancing all the stuff he needs to (and wants to) do for sports. As he gets ready to go to high school next year, this will serve him well. He has a goal to letter in 3 sports - football, wrestling, and lacrosse. And while that may seem like a lot, it's a tad more impressive when you consider that he ALSO has a goal to go to West Point. Will that change? Maybe, but it's taken 3 years of him talking about it for me to buy into the idea that he's pretty serious about it. He knows what the requirements are to get accepted to West Point. He knows (or has read) about what it's like to go there as a student. He wants to do it because it's hard. He wants to do it because it's a great education. He wants to do it because he believes in the mission of West Point. So I've accepted... and we are looking for ways to support him.
In general, I think we've moved into more of a supporting role for Spencer. I suppose that happens. You start out as care-giver to a helpless newborn and gradually are relieved of more and more care-giving duties. We are well down this road with Spencer. He needs us as a supplier of room and board. He needs our support and love. He needs to know we are in his corner, which we will ALWAYS be, but he doesn't need me to pick his clothes, remind him to brush his teeth, check his work, or encourage him to try harder. He no longer needs me to be a care-taker, so I get to be a mom. I get to guide and push, to provide my opinion and to help him to sort through all the events around him. I get to love him. I am so lucky to get to love him!
Before you all go thinking that I think the child is perfect, you know very well that I don't believe that and he is NOT perfect. If any of us needed a reminder (and I think maybe we did... a little...) I will simply remind you what happened on the afternoon of Labor Day Monday when he did a super dumb thing and hurt himself badly. He (likely) ruined his chance to make good on some of his personal goals that day. He (thankfully) didn't hurt himself worse. He's back to pretty much 100% after the concussion. He's back to taking tests and doing school work. He's back to full contact practices and conditioning. He'll be back on the football field on October 11th for the first round of playoffs. He's a little like a caged animal right now waiting to get back to it. He misses playing. He misses contributing. He misses leading his team.
It may be difficult for Spencer to top the achievements he's had this year. He's had a really great year. This coming 12 months will see him finish a middle school football career. It will take him through a wrestling season and into a lacrosse season playing on the (hopefully, should he make the team) Senior Select team. He will finish 8th grade leaving behind the most rigorous academic schedule available to him. He will start over at the bottom of the totem pole at high school. He will forge a new path for the Bovenizer brothers behind him. And I couldn't be more comfortable with him cutting the path for us all. We will all get to learn about a whole new world alongside him. He's been teaching us and stretching us to grow since he made his debut, nearly 14 years ago. And we are all better people because of him.
Here's to another year full of happiness and successfully conquered challenges. Here's to another year of smiles and hugs. Here's to Spencer.