My first baby is seventeen today. There are moments when it feels like just yesterday I was bringing him home from the hospital, swaddled and new, but most days that feels like a lifetime ago.

As a high school teacher, teenagers have always been my favorite, and I honestly don’t wish for the days or years when my boys were smaller. I almost feel as if I have been waiting their whole lives for them to be this age. I love the snarky self-actualization, the tentative independence, the sometimes reluctant responsibility, and the magnitude of emotions that come with navigating this phase of life.

My students taught me new things about living every single year. My boys teach me every single day. And today, because it is his birthday, I will share a few things I am learning from Hunter “Bean” Helms.

Don’t apologize for who you are.

Hunter Helms is 100% his own person. He likes what he likes. He won’t be persuaded to be anything less than authentic. In a world where so much is fluid, he has an integrity of self that inspires me.

Show up.

Wherever Hunter is, he is all there, till the end. In his friendships. When he volunteers. In his schoolwork. When he plays video games. It is the kind of showing up that is rare and genuine and powerful. I hope everyone has a Hunter in their life that will show up for them, and I am committed to being more like him, for him, everyday.

Figure it out.

Curious doesn’t really cover it. He is always working to figure out the problem and find a solution. He wants to do it his own way, with his own work. He doesn’t cut corners, and he doesn’t do things half way. He couples independence with tenacity, and grit with a growth-mindset.

He also has some smooth dance moves, an extensive collection of tiny random things, is a thoughtful gift giver, always checks the mail, loves a good meme, and knows every word to every song on any radio station. He is seventeen, and he is one of the best teachers I have ever had…

Still learning…from my son,