A love letter to my son
My youngest, my baby boy, you turn 12 this week. You are, like all babies, growing up too fast.
It’s not a landmark birthday or anything, but as it approaches it hits me how much you have grown. Definitely no longer a baby, barely still a child; I can see more and more glimpses of the man you are becoming.
You weren’t an easy baby. Right from your earliest moments, you made me work hard. You were a baby of two extremes – either sunshine or fury, with very little in between. You were screaming with frustration and rage one minute, and smiling and laughing with joy the next. It was mainly, I think, because you were always in such a hurry towards independence. You wanted to do everything before you were ready: rolling over at 7 weeks; walking at 9 months; insisting on feeding yourself from the moment you could grab a spoon; potty training yourself at 18 months.
And discipline? Oh, man. Nothing worked. Being calm, being angry, being reasonable, being disappointed; whatever my reaction, it rolled off you. The naughty step didn’t faze you. You would sit quite happily on there for as long as I left you. Talking to yourself, singing, making hand shadows on the wall. I remember vividly an epic battle of wills where, after some transgression (I think you bit your sister) I took away your beloved Buzz Lightyear as a consequence and you told me happily you’d play with something else. So I took away a handful of teddies, and you just shrugged. I took away toy after toy, waiting for some kind of reaction, your room becoming emptier and emptier (and my cupboard becoming full to bursting). Eventually, when I was about to give up hope, I took away some Lego and that, finally, brought the remorse and the apologies.
As speech came, so did arguments. You would never accept what you were told. The sky wasn’t blue, it was pink. I couldn’t help you with anything: “I’ll do it, I can do it!” Whatever I tried to tell you, any wisdom I tried to impart: “I know! I know that!” Whatever you were interested in (superheroes, Pokemon, science, engineering, Minecraft) you would develop an obsessive focus on, and talk endlessly about it.
So no, you have never been an “easy” child. Growing up too fast? I couldn’t wait for things to get easier! But fast forward a few years, though, and those qualities which had left me tearing my hair out have transformed you into an unstoppable achiever. That early stubbornness, that willfulness, gave way to determination to achieve the most difficult of tasks. Your single-minded approach means you never give up on something once you put your mind to it.
Your determination to be right, to know everything, to be brilliant; it has given you a desire to learn and to succeed which leaves teacher after teacher telling me how driven you are, how capable, how much you participate and what effort you put in.
Those frustrating early attempts at discipline have given you a healthy respect for authority (alongside the willingness to question it when you feels it is wrong) and you are consistently polite, respectful, well-mannered. You talk so easily to adults, with a confidence I only dreamt of at your age.
And amongst all of this are leadership qualities which emerge in any group you become part of. You have a deeply caring side which manifests in your standing up for your friends, maintaining a loyal group of close friends in every school you have attended. Head boy in your primary school, with ambitions to be head boy in your secondary school, you are always popular but never cocky, always hard-working but never the geek (apparently, the worst thing you can be in school nowadays). I am constantly told what a wonderful role model you are, with your sense of right from wrong, your understanding of what it takes to be successful.
You still have your moments. You are, after all a nearly-12 year old boy. So you can’t sit or stand still while you talk to me. You still always have to be right, you are unbelievably messy, and right now you just won’t stop talking about Destiny or the x-box. And you can tell me what chemical process is going on inside a star but you can’t remember to take your lunch box out of the fridge in the morning.
But you are extraordinary, my boy. You are a charming, forgetful, messy, hard-working, frustrating, unstoppable force of nature. You push me to my limits of patience and then give me a hug and a back-rub and all of that frustration disappears. Your own frustrations are still intense, but your ability to bounce back into sunshine has never left you. Living in the moment, you feel deeply and have the passion and determination to achieve anything. I wouldn’t change a moment of those difficult first years, because they have made you who you are. I can already see who you will become, and I am so proud to be your mum.
You may be rushing towards adulthood, growing up too fast; but for now, for a few more precious years, you are still my little boy.
Happy birthday, J.