Here we are again...another year has gone, tucked away into our memories now. Hidden behind Christmases, vacations and birthdays and beachtrips. These days that pass often seem so long when we are in the middle of them while life steals precious seconds away from us. But our years together seem much too short for my aching heart as I watch you change overnight these days.

You are 13 now. Thirteen. Well on your way to becoming a man. No longer the little baby I held so close all those terribly short and fleeting years.

Where did it all go? It slipped by us in a flash, didn't it?  Karate lessons, school projects and carpool have given way to the young man I am looking at everyday now. Years slip by too quickly. But they have yielded a lovely and empathetic boy who is growing and already taller than me. It doesn't seem possible. This is never what I imagined. Yet, here we are. At thirteen.

I am not sure where we go from here. I am not sure what the next years look like. I fear the speed will start to pick up at a pace I cannot keep up with. Soon, college will be looming and I will not know what happened to these sweet, long days filled with cartoons and and too many screens. I will wonder why I didn't drag you kicking and screaming to the beach to watch more sunsets and let the warm waves wash over us. I will wonder how I have known you for so long, yet is seems like yesterday they handed me the chunky little baby who didn't look at all like a newborn in that hospital room all those years ago. Thirteen years ago.

Thirteen is new territory. It marks a definite change in you. No longer a little boy. But yet not quite grown up. I stand here clinging to the past, yet so excited to see what the future holds for you. I know it will be filled with love and joy and strength - just as you are.

I hope this world doesn't change you too much. I hope you remember to stay as you are -  strong yet soft, curious and cautious, big with the knowledge of how small you really are in the grand scheme of it all. Mostly, I hope you remember all these wonderful gifts you have carried since birth. You have so many gifts - and they are far too big for wrappings and bows. They are real. They are what counts.

Today, I wish for you to blow out the candles on your cake and dream big. Make it count. And don't let anyone tell you that you can't have those dreams - not even me. Especially not me! I am sure I will do it. We parents make silly mistakes. We have our fears and beliefs. And we try to protect you from them as well. But those dreams are yours. Own them! They are real. Today is the day to start believing that. Today is the day to start believing in yourself even more than you ever have before. Because you are going to do great things. You are capable of anything.

Remember that I love you. There are 13 years between us on this planet, but an endless amount of years I have known you in my heart. And everyday, that love grows impossibly and exponentially bigger.

Happy Birthday, Graham. I am looking forward to every single long day and short year ahead.