My gorgeous green-eyed boy, you are ten. Although, to be honest, you’ve been saying you’re ten for at least two months now, so it’s a little bit anti-climactic. And no matter how many times you said it, only to have your sister immediately correct you, you persisted in calling yourself ten. Literally since July. But today, for real, you’re finally ten. It’s official.
You are now, as you always have been, the most guileless and open person I know. You are not shy, you are not reserved, and you are not worried about what other people think. It is so lovely to see you openly excited whenever something good happens. Like during the first week of school when you dashed out to me as I stood in the middle of a conversation with another mom, and with a flushed face and shining eyes you exclaimed that you’d made the top set in maths and flung your arms around me in a bear hug. You were so, so proud and so didn’t care if it was cool to be that happy about it. And my heart could have burst with pride and happiness for you.
Your school over the past year has been a considerable source of happiness for you, from last autumn when you made the A-team in football (soccer), to the winter when you made the A-team as the goalie in hockey (field hockey), and then into spring when you made the A-team again in cricket (baseball skills translate, apparently). You made the swim team and the cross country team as well.
You told me not too far into the beginning of last school year that you absolutely loved your new school because “you matter there, you make a difference”. If there’s something better a child can say to his mother, I don’t know it. Knowing that the place where I send you off for 7+ hours each day makes you feel like you matter is about as much as I can ask for.
Aside from your successes on the sports field, you also embraced everything else this new school had to offer, as I knew you would. You joined the choir and loved being part of the school production of Wind in the Willows. You joined an art club. You ran for school council. Your willingness to put yourself out there sets a great example for your siblings, most of whom are slightly less gregarious than you. And you just love being involved. I love that about you.
On Sports Day in the spring, a day of serious and impressive track and field events, you cemented your mark on the school in a way that I know truly made you proud. Your only goal that day was to beat the school record for your year in the cricket ball throw and get your name in the school record book. I was quite proud of you for setting a goal like that. The distance to beat for your grade was somewhere just under 45 meters. And you got up there and you chucked that ball with everything you had, with that lovely throwing motion your dad has ingrained in you since you could hold a ball, and everyone watching gasped out loud as the ball sailed over all our heads and past the judges, who had to unroll the tape measure to check your distance. You hit 49.7 meters. You smashed it. And you joyfully but quietly celebrated your accomplishment, cheered on and congratulated by your friends, all of whom were truly happy for you. It was a pleasure to watch.
Although I think the cricket ball record was a highlight for you, my proudest moment came a few weeks earlier at the school awards ceremony when you received the Most Improved Award for your class. I saw the work you put in last year to catch up in maths, handwriting, English, and all the plethora of subjects that are taught so differently here than they were at home. Your grades improved every single term. You put your whole self into it and I was so grateful that your efforts were recognized.
We have reached another turning point this year, you and I: we now have the same size feet. Given that I am a still several–at least 6–inches taller than you and not small-of-feet myself, we’ll just say you have large feet and leave it at that. I sort of imagine you like a puppy with giant paws and I am just waiting for the day when you grow into them and, therefore, tower over me. I also discovered a few days ago that a pair of your jeans was neatly folded in my pants drawer because I had assumed, when I picked them out of the laundry basket, that they were mine. All this is to say that I don’t think it will be too long before I am looking up at you. I’m already planning to steal your cool new turf shoes as soon as you outgrow them. So, like, next week probably, at the rate you’re growing.
Although you are getting quite big and quite mature, thankfully you still give me a kiss every morning at school when we say goodbye. Even if it’s only because you know I’ll make a scene if you refuse, you pause and hug and kiss me, no matter if you’re with your friends. I love you for that.
In this year of adventure, you’ve seen some really cool places, from Edinburgh (where you tried the haggis!), to Stonehenge and Cornwall, to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But my favorite trip with you was to Rome; you had studied Ancient Rome in history not too long before the trip and were so excited to see it in person. As we took our tour of the Colosseum, you gleefully and correctly answered the tour guides questions and were so proud that you were able to contribute. At the Vatican museum, you hung on every word as our guide described the images painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and when we got home from our trip your history teacher told me that you’d shared all that information with your class — even pulling up an image of the painting on the smart board in class so you could point out specific details. I love that you soaked it all up and remembered it and were interested enough to think your classmates would love to know about it too.
You are full of candor and joy, friendliness and humor, hard work and pride. You are a leader that people want to follow because you take charge with humility and natural grace. You are a rock star in every sense of the word. You are simply awesome. Never change.
Now, on your tenth birthday, I celebrate with gratitude a decade of being the mother to a young man I am so proud to call my son. Happy birthday Gabey-Baby. I love you to the moon and back!