Sweet Sixteen


You’ll be turning sixteen this week and I am still in awe that I have a sixteen year old child.

I want to share a story with you, one that you may never come to understand.

Your teen years have been, in many ways, as unpredictable as I had always heard they would be.

Your voice is much deeper, you’re continuing to grow in height, and you still love to sing (but mostly in the car), go to the movies and collect countless toys and Legos.

With age has come a certain degree of anxiety, something that your mother and I are learning to accept and respect because, like any parents, all we want is for you to be healthy and happy.

Late last year, you were part of a photo shoot with your stepmom, Marissa, your stepbrother, Sebastian, and myself.

We had a wonderful photographer, Allison Ewing, who understood the dynamics of our family and could not have been better or more considerate in taking pictures of all of us: some with all four, some solo, and other combinations of poses as well. We wanted a variety of pictures and she gave us exactly what we asked for.

When we received the photos, we could not have been happier. We found so many incredible shots, many of which we would share with friends and family and have reprinted and enlarged so that they could be in our home and others.

You looked so handsome in those pictures and I blew up a couple of your solo shots to give to your mother because I believed she would appreciate them (and she did).

Because we were so pleased with how so many photos came out, we shared several on social media so that others could enjoy them as well. I went to post some on Instagram and had a smaller amount I could upload into one post, so I very quickly selected a combination of shots to meet the requirement and that was cross-posted onto my business page on Facebook.

Among the very kind words and engagements of our friends, someone who saw my business page made a comment that continues to stick with me.

“She” (not sure if this was a real person or an internet troll) saw that very small collection of photos and assumed that because you were not represented in all of them that we were purposefully excluding you from our family. “She” implied that we should be ashamed as parents for not having you in all of the photos.

Initially, I read the post and was taken aback. I don’t know who the person was and I may never know. I deleted the comment and then, took it one step further, and deleted the entire post.

Social media is a strange place to “live”.

I’ve elected to be a very active participant on social media and have had little to no reservation in posting pictures of my sons or my wife.

Of course, it is the internet, and everyone has the ability to comment as they please.

But what this person doesn’t know is that you are every bit a part of our lives as you would like to be. It’s true that we may see you less than we would like but I’ve never been the type of parent to force you into places you were uncomfortable being.

I understand that, along with autism, your anxiety is a very real thing and I would rather provide an atmosphere and environment where you know you are loved and welcome and that our door always remains open to you.

Jackson, you are, and have always been surrounded by love. Your mother and I have worked hard, in our own ways, to make sure of that.

That some random stranger could make a hurtful comment on social media about you is something I have trouble understanding.

Some might say: Well, maybe you shouldn’t post your private life on social media.

They might be right.

But I am proud of my sons and I am proud to be a father and I want the world to see you both grow and mature and evolve into young men and adults who will shine a light for others to see.

I know you may never read this.

I know you may never understand this.

But I love you dearly, Jackson. For you, are the boy who changed my world. And I, am a better man because of you.

As we were walking from one area to another on our photo shoot, the wind was starting to pick up and none of us had coats on. You were walking next to me and I asked: Are you cold, buddy? You said: It’s so cold and you cuddled up next to me. I didn’t know it then, but Allison snapped that scene from behind.

When I saw that particular photo in the gallery, my eyes started to well up with tears. I have a lot of pictures of you that I love, but maybe this one hits harder than most.

Near or far, I will always be by your side, my sweet sixteen.