Sunday, January 16, 2011

16 Candles

Today, my nephew Austin turned 16.  How time does fly.  I myself was only 16 when he was born.  I remember thinking how tiny and perfect he was, and now, here he is, a handsome, caring, talented young man.  Recently, I blogged a letter to myself at 16.  What a different world my 16 year old self lived in, a simpler time where our high school drama was confined to our hallways as opposed to being splayed across the internet for all to see.  I wonder how I would fare as a teenager today.  All in all, I say my nephew fares better than most kids, but I chalk that up to my amazing, tight knit family.

Austin has wonderfully supportive parents in my sister and her husband, and while his little sister Abbie likes to compete with him and pester him (as any good little sister would) she loves him a ton, as evidenced by the birthday breakfast she was making him when I called their house this morning.  And Austin has always has a very close relationship with my parents, who not only babysat him and his sister frequently over the years, but helped teach them a lot of the skills and life lessons they have needed along the way.  My mom helped teach Austin a lot of his academic skills, even before pre-school, and my dad helped teach Austin some of the "guy" stuff like fishing.  My dad is who helped foster Austin's love of the guitar, and now Austin is a talented musician in his own right.

When Austin was born, I was in high school, so we got to spend a lot of time together.  And even when I was in college, I lived with my parents, so again, I saw him almost daily.  When Austin started talking, he could not say my name, so he gave me the nickname Nini.  It stuck, and to this day, he and Abbie call me Aunt Nini.  I always figure he thinks I am old and lame, so the fact that he is my friend on facebook makes me smile.  Austin and I have always had a close relationship, mostly because I do not act like I am 30 something when I am around him, I usually am acting like a big dork.  And I try to remind him that I have been where he is now.

If I could give Austin some advice for how to get through the next couple of years, based on my experiences, here is what I would say:

Have fun during high school.  Do not be in such a rush to grow up and have adult responsibilities, it really is not as fun as it seems.

Moms know a lot more than you realize.  You may not see what your mom is trying to point out now, but you will some day.  Trust me on this one.

Your family will go to the ends of the earth to protect you.  It is a blessing.  Trust me.  I would have been lost without my family over the years.

That first paycheck is NOT going to be nearly as big as you think it will be.  Get used to that.

Living at home to save money is totally worth it.  Talk to me and Uncle Steve if you want more details, we both did it, and seriously, it was worth it.

Dream big.  I know it sounds cliche, but do it.  However, have a plan B.  Just in case.

Do not experiment with hair dye.  Again, trust me with this one, you have seen how many different colors my hair has been.  I am not even sure what my natural color is anymore!

Most importantly, stay true to yourself.  Over the last 16 years, I have seen you grow from a sensitive, friendly little boy, to a loving, intelligent young man.  I have watched you go out of your way for your friends and your family.  I have watched you go from dancing to country music to playing heavy metal on your own guitar.  I am proud of you, and all you have accomplished, and I am anxious to see what all you will achieve in the years to come.

Happy Birthday Austin, I love you!

All my love,