A letter to my son on his first week of school

8349883A-8A47-40FF-AB72-B33553859CD0As soon as I sat down to write this I smiled. Well, first came the wash of guilt for all the letters I meant to write you but never got around to (it’s a Mom thing). Once that passed my eyes twinkled, my whole self-filled with warmth and mouth curved upward. This happens when I think of you.

You are the very best. Every thing about you, big and small, fills me with love. Your big expressive eyes, giant imagination, dogged determination, wild stories and unforced humour.

This week you started your school journey. In New Zealand, this happens as soon as you turn five. Indeed this means that kids start school at random intervals throughout the year. I am still befuddled by this practice and think administering a school with different class sizes each day of the year would be a nightmare. But it all seems to work out somehow.

38FC0607-8305-4332-8AC6-216936CD0B93

Your birthday fell immediately before the mid-year holidays. This gave you the rare fortune of starting school exactly halfway through the year. Monday morning rolled around and you bounced out of bed with excitement. You put on your (too big) uniform and walked proudly into the kitchen. I heard your Dad cheering and laughing from upstairs and he said your face was as proud as punch to be off to big school.

I knew you would adapt to school as you have pretty much everything else you do – seamlessly. But everyone else was making a big fuss about the first day. I tried to get in step, but you were having none of it. You waved me off and said goodbye while the other parents lingered, oohing and aahing.

My independent 5 year old is finally in the classroom next door to his big sister in big school.

2E08578F-071A-4268-8E18-A6EB51F8955BYou have been a marvel to watch since the day you arrived. From the beginning, you challenged me in ways neither of your siblings did. A lot of that had to do with how unprepared I was for how big the leap was between having one kid and two. The rest of it comes from how impossible you have been to predict. Every time I think I have you figured out, you shift the mark.

I look back now at the letter I wrote you on your first birthday and laugh because I had it so wrong. At one I reckoned you had all the makings of your Dad – laid back, patient, quick to smile and laugh, going along at your own pace.

Man was I wrong.

You are your own person; that much was correct. You do things one way – your way. But you are not laid back or unflappable. You are at once our most challenging and most entertaining child.

49a51655-a48d-4bb6-a41e-8e1248549222.jpegWe learned years ago not to push you towards anything but to set boundaries to let you do things at your own direction and pace. Learning to ride a bike took 2 minutes. By the end of the first week you went on a 6 km ride. You bounce out of bed on rugby mornings singing ‘It’s Cobra Time’. Skiing with you is sheer delight – you show little fear and a natural ability. You resisted swimming for years before the switch turned and are now happy to dive to the bottom of the pool and always come up with a beaming smile (it is one of my favourite activities to watch specifically for these moments – I cannot get enough of that smile).

A87A4528-CA83-43CD-B084-C22AABC3E39DYou are wildly entertaining. Like wildly. One of the routine moments I use to remind myself of my blessings is listening to you chatter away in your car seat while I am driving. When we are in the car, we are typically rushing somewhere and I am on my last shred of patience after getting everyone and everything in the car. You often talk or sing pure comedic gold and an encyclopaedia of random facts from door to door. It always takes my edge off and reminds me how blessed I am, we are.

You remind me of that often. You are our resident peacemaker, a genuine empath. You have a keen sense of justice, and are the first to notice when someone else needs something. My warmest moments are when you slide up behind me or next to me quietly to hug or nuzzle my cheek. They always come without explanation, but seem to come at moments I need them. I don’t believe this is an accident.

9e11bf63-994b-49df-889a-ed4a57b2dffe.jpegYou love your family fiercely. I asked you recently what your favourite sport is. You replied ‘rugby, because my whole family comes to watch me’. You look in our direction each and every time you score a try or make a mistake. You declare regularly how lucky you are to have your family and tell me ‘you are the best Mom ever’. When you have a down moment and say the opposite (it happens too), I never have to scold you or tell you that your words hurt. You figure it out on your own and issue your own apology. Usually you tell me you were ‘just telling jokes’ or ‘just tricking you when I said that’.

Losing a temper or saying things you are not proud of in the heat of a moment are forgivable. I do it all the time. We all make mistakes. I love that you understand and internalise the weight of your behaviour or words and try to protect people from that pain, even after the fact; especially after the fact. Please keep this self- awareness and desire to protect people. We give negativity far better than we receive it.

CB880E5E-7BEE-48EA-998C-6210030909B7For reasons I am not sure of, I worry less about you than your siblings. I haven’t assessed your skills for your age or pushed you towards reading or writing. I rarely check in on how you are doing socially or developmentally. Things just seem so smooth for you. You make friends and adapt to new circumstances or challenges so effortlessly. It is a universal irony that the people who seek the least approval seem to gain it the most easily.

I should be careful about casting this weight onto you. Being the peacemaker comes with the magic of being able to see inside others and give them what they need. You are my sensitive-hearted child. This also means you hurt deeply. You do not need to be ok all the time. You are allowed to struggle and doubt and be selfish or scared or lost.

F590110D-C821-4947-9B56-04A982FA6E27I learned last year that suicide is four times higher in males than females. This stunned me – I would have guessed the opposite even. It also made me realise the pressure we put on boys and men to be ok and the lack of helpful avenues you have when you are not.

I promise to be a safe space for you if and when you need one. We love you deeply and unconditionally.

We are so proud of every single thing you are and would not change one thing about you. Learning and loving you remains the greatest journey of my life. Thank you for being you my intoxicating little dude. Happy 6th year. I hope it is as enchanted as the last. You are so very loved.

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