You’ve made it! Today (right now, in fact) you are celebrating your Grade 8 graduation, and I really want to say a few words. I write to you in my head with every birthday and milestone, but there are not very many birthday blog posts from recent years. (Sigh… you know how June is.) For instance, I had many feelings and thoughts on you becoming a teenager last year, and honestly got a bit daunted trying to find time and focus to capture them properly. But on this occasion, it is especially important to me to write.
This Grade 8 graduation thing is a big step. It feels like leaving childhood behind. [Di-hards, can you believe it? This is the baby who basically started this blog.] I know you are still technically a child, but next year you will be in high school. You won’t be thinking of yourself that way. Your childlike aspects are falling away more rapidly than I’m ready for. Your voice is deep now, and it’s basically a given that by the end of summer, you will be taller than me.
In case you read this sometime when you’re much older and can’t recall clearly, here’s how your family knows you right now. (I’m sure a lot of these things will still apply later on.)
You are sensitive, in many ways.
Not just in terms of food, or misophonia (I’m sorry I inadvertently passed that on to you), or physical pain. You are also a feeler, with a wide river of empathy. Although you don’t wear it on your sleeve, I know you worry about the possibility of people’s feelings being hurt by choices you make. You grieve our pets hard when we lose them.
Sometimes you fret about big unhelpable things… for example, I will never forget the evening you had found out how many hotdogs are made per minute in the US, and it really upset you. (Not this year, but within the last few.) Someone had probably mentioned it as a “fun fact”, but you immediately saw the impact. It broke my heart, even as I admired your depth. I have some experience living as an empathetic, feeling child, and it’s often hard. I think this element of your soul is partially why you need this next one.
You go deep when it comes to the things you care about.
Actually, I probably don’t even know the half of it, since you have your own room and research capabilities. But we’ve noticed from a very young age that you want to learn EVERYTHING about the things you love. Currently, this includes certain video games, musical artists, speed-cube algorithms (current record: 27 seconds), and the book you’re writing.
Sometimes it’s like a superpower! I’m sure this is partly why you CRUSHED the schoolwork that you invested yourself in during Grade 8 (your plant cell project, creative writing story, French children’s book, and conspiracy theory video). But it’s also partly why your first attempts to create music have been a bit rocky; you listen to music with such fervent, analytical focus that it’s hard to make your ideas come through with the details you want. I hope you will take from Grade 8 the knowledge that you can excel with hard work and practice – and that the satisfaction and pride are worth the work.
You are funny.
Your sense of humour ranges from intellectual to all-out silly, and we love it. You make us laugh on a regular basis. I’m happy when you tease us and none of us takes ourselves too seriously. Your family and even your teachers know that getting a laugh out of you is a reward in itself.
You are sweet, gentle, and… dare I say even-tempered?
Although you do still struggle with temper when things go wrong – particularly video-game related things – the rest of the time, you are actually a pretty chill guy. Our wise friend K said to me recently, when I was fretting about those times when you freak out a bit and I was blaming the games, “Maybe that’s just what he uses as an outlet for those feelings.” And I think maybe he’s right.
I know there are lots of feelings happening, but overall there’s also a calm that I’m starting to see as a beautiful part of the man you will be. You do get excited about things, but in your own relaxed way. And I can see how much you love your people and animals. Your friends are a really nice bunch of kids – and also pretty gentle, it seems. I’m glad you have them, and vice-versa. What I’m hoping is that you are also, as often as possible, gentle and loving with yourself.
You and your sister have a cool bond.
The two of you don’t spend tons of time together, and you’re not always patient with each other, but it’s frequent enough that you have fun being siblings. In warm weather, you still spend time many evenings playing games you made up on the trampoline together. You sometimes spend a whole evening doing Mad Libs or Word-at-a-Time and laughing uproariously. It makes your parents’ hearts all warm and happy. I hope you will always be there for each other.
Occasionally I let myself think about our parallel-universe family, the one in which Sebastian survived and you grew up with a brother. I wonder how different you might be, how you two boys would get along, how close you would be. I have been thinking about how we would have celebrated both your graduations this year – his from Grade 6 and yours from Grade 8. And I wonder whether you ever feel sad that you didn’t get to keep the brother we were all expecting. Maybe someday I’ll ask you.
I treasure you as a son and a person.
I feel really lucky for how our relationship is right now. You’ve now been a teenager for just over a year, and so far the things I was most nervous about haven’t really happened (although I guess there is still time). Of course, there are plenty of eye-rolls and some unwarranted annoyed voice, etc. There are things I have to nag you about and ways we frustrate each other. But you still let me brush your long (beautiful) hair in the mornings and hug you – and you hug me back – before school.
I also get a hug for every goodnight. You let me kiss both your cheeks (even though you know I’m partly checking for signs of facial hair) and you almost always say “I love you” back. Once in a while, you even say it first. Sometimes we talk; sometimes you tell me things that are on your mind. Sometimes you give my arm a long hug, for old times’ sake.
Sometimes I worry about you. (We’ve had conversations about some of my worries before, so you know.) I worry that someday, you will lose too much of yourself to the massive power of tech companies trying to addict you to things. Are your beautiful curiosity and capacity for wonder decreasing with their influence? I worry that you won’t have the kinds of life-affirming experiences of community that humans need, because people’s habits can be so isolating these days. And of course I worry about all those unpredictable and potentially tragic turns life can take, as children assert more and more independence from their parents. (Your dad and I try to drop samples of hard-earned wisdom on you whenever the opportunity arises, but that only goes so far.)
But right now, on the day of your Grade 8 graduation, I’m just really proud and thankful. You are a great kid. It has been a beautiful thing to be your mom for fourteen years. I loved the days when I knew everything about your life, watching you grow. And now that I only know a fraction, it is fascinating every time I learn something new about you.
I wonder if you can sense that when I look at you, I see all versions of your child-self. It’s hard to describe how your sweet baby nose and cheeks are still visible when you look at me with your big-kid face… But somehow, they are, and I remember how I felt as your mom when you were tiny, and little, and medium-sized. Always full of big thoughts and extraordinary ideas.
Trust that every version of you is part of who you are now. Your personality is rich with all the yous you have been. And of course: I love all the innumerable layers of your you-ness that have collected through your whole life. It’s like Gabriel’s Cake, except you don’t even have to slice it for it to be infinite. 😉