Today you are nine years old. There’s no denying that you’re not a little boy anymore. You’re one of the big kids, officially and definitely. Never mind the fact that your feet are only a half size smaller than mine, or your jeans get mixed up in my laundry pile because your legs are almost as long as mine. Or that I wear your flip-flops when I can’t find my own. You are big in age, not just in size, and it’s crazy to me that my chubby first baby boy is a tall, skinny, kid who spends just as much time in the morning making sure his hair looks good as I do.
In the last six weeks, your life has turned upside down. We moved to a new country. Sold our cars, rented out our house, sent our pets to new homes, left our friends and family, deposited ourselves in a tiny village in the middle of the English countryside where we know no one, and you started at a new school that could pretty much not be more different than the school you just came from.
And you rolled with all of it. And you never expressed a doubt or a fear or a single word of hesitation. You smiled, you helped pack, you helped UN-pack, and then you started playing football (soccer) like it was your job.
I knew you would.
Of all the people in this family, the person I worried about least in this huge move was you, my green-eyed boy. Because you are adaptable, you make friends and have fun anywhere and everywhere we go, and you don’t worry about what could go wrong. Like you said to me the other night, “I don’t live in the past, I look to the future.”
(You really did say that very thing. Bridget and I looked at each other in a sort of disbelief after you said it. And she replied, “Well said, Dumbledore.”)
In these six weeks though, I feel like you’ve grown up a lot. Part of it, I think, is your excitement and joy over embarking on this new adventure. Part of it, too, is your new school. You’re given a far greater degree of independence there than you ever have been before, and you’re simply expected to do the right thing with your freedom. And you have. And you’re rolling that new level of maturity over into our home life and it’s really amazing and gratifying to watch you suddenly act so grown-up and wise. Your goofy and crazy core is still intact, though, it’s just tempered with better decision-making and a general awareness of how your actions affect others. It’s awesome.
I don’t know if Daddy and I have properly thanked you for never once having anything but a positive reaction to this crazy life-changing move, but we are so appreciative and grateful for your excitement over all of it. It makes it so much easier on us, because often, what YOU say and do is what your younger brothers immediately then say and do. You helped set the tone on this move with your optimism and Daddy and I thank you for it.
Your unbridled enthusiasm for all these new things makes everything more fun. Your new school doesn’t offer the sports you’ve played most — baseball and football. Instead, you’re playing a new kind of football (soccer), you’ll probably play field hockey (’cause that’s a thing for boys here in Europe), and you’ll almost certainly play cricket. For someone as sports-oriented as you, not having any experience in any of the most popular sports here could easily have been discouraging. Instead though, your Dad, in his infinite wisdom when it comes to our boys and sports, bought a soccer ball and a mini cricket set about three days after we arrived in England, and you’ve done nothing else since. Despite having only one season when you were about 5 or 6 under your belt, and then three weeks of practice here, you played soccer well enough to make the A-team for your class. I don’t know why I was surprised, because as I’ve said one million times in your life, you just seem to know how to make your body do what you want it to do, no matter what sport it is. But I was still surprised. And proud. And excited. And you should be too.
Although you are suddenly quite grown up, you’re still the kid in this family who needs the most hugs, the most kisses goodnight, and you aren’t afraid to hold my hand in public still or kiss me goodbye at school. You get scared at scary movies (in that regard, you’re my son for sure), and you need help getting the scary images out of your mind. You aren’t embarrassed by emotion, and I hope you hold on to that. Don’t let other people’s opinions make you hide how you really feel. Just unashamedly be your wide-open, guileless self. Forever and ever, amen.
You are strong and capable and smart. You’re a leader, without really ever trying to be. You’re also a dork, but you somehow make your dorkiness cool. I don’t think you even realize it, but you have a gift that just makes people like you. It’s not hard to see why though, and in general, you like people right back.
This year is going to be full, I know, of adventures and changes and new people and experiences. I am so excited to watch and see how excited YOU are by all of it. I consider it a great privilege to see it all through the joy in your eyes.
Happy ninth birthday my green-eyed boy. May you always be as happy, fun, sweet, silly, clever, dorky, cool, and goofy as you are now.