You know what I love about you, my Gabey-baby? Everything.
You’re happy, thoughtful, responsible, loving, funny, helpful, interesting, curious, earnest, silly, kind, and caring. You are all those things, and that is the truth.
Lest I be accused of bias, though, and in order to demonstrate that I am not oblivious to your faults, I’ll tell you that you are also not a good listener, you get too easily frustrated, you like to pick on your brothers, and you have real trouble not trying to get the last word in during an argument.
Those things are all also true, which I assume you know because your dad and I do have to say them to you fairly frequently. (But just in case, I’m writing them here so you can read them, because…well…look at the first one on the list.)
In the balance, though, you are a pretty amazing person. I’m so glad I get to be your mom.
You are, as I’ve said before, the person who introduced me to the way boys work. When you were born I began this weird new journey into the mind of a little boy and I have learned some amazing things — the most important being that little boys are just as multi-faceted and varied and complex as little girls.
I think that concept gets brushed aside a lot. Before I had you, my eldest son, I admit that I probably had a less-than-nuanced understanding and set of beliefs about what little boys were like. I bought the stereotypes and just assumed that little boys are these rough and tumble oblivious mess-makers who stumble through the world without much thought, slamming into things and not really paying attention.
While that can certainly be true and you’ve had your fair share of times when that description sums you up pretty well, the reality is that you are every bit as capable of being a calm, thoughtful, attentive, detail-oriented person as your sister. The older you get, the more that becomes true. You aren’t just one thing, you’re not a preconceived notion or a one-dimensional character.
You are sensitive. You are empathetic and sympathetic. You are snuggly and loving. You’re not a risk-taker or a thrill-seeker, you prefer not to be scared. You pay attention to people and how they feel. You look for and find beauty and wonder in the world around you and you appreciate it, out loud, without embarrassment or hesitation. You are expressive and emotional.
You have taught me about boys and girls and stereotypes and expectations and it has made me a better person and better parent. Because I have you (and your sister and brothers as well) to illustrate daily the similarities and differences between boys and girls, daughters and sons, and individuals in general, I am a more understanding and complete human myself. Thank you for showing me the truth.
Yet another truth is that you’re simply one of the coolest people I know. You do what you love and you do it wholeheartedly, regardless of whether that thing is something people would expect from you or not.
Bridget wondered aloud the other evening why everyone always thinks “Gabe is so cool”, when, as you danced around the dining room singing, with your hair in a ponytail on the front of your head like a unicorn, it seemed very, very clear that you are not, in fact, cool at all.
That, I said, is the trick — Gabe knows in his heart that as long as he believes he’s cool, he is. And whatever he is doing, therefore, becomes cool by default.
Bridget wasn’t thrilled with that answer, but it’s another truth, undeniably.
You’ve discovered the key to happiness there, too, I think.
You really do just embrace whatever you find that you love, whether that’s playing ALL THE SPORTS (which might typically be deemed cool), or tap dancing (which might not).
Whether it’s talking about movies you love like Guardians of the Galaxy (typically pretty cool) or the Sound of Music (maybe not as popular with the 11-year old boys).
Or whether it’s spending your free time playing video games and riding your skateboard and playing football (generally regarded as cool pastimes) or reading books about history and singing along to musicals with your mom (possibly not regarded as the coolest hobbies).
And because you unapologetically do your thing, because you love what you love out loud and with passion, you MAKE IT COOL. And you enjoy your life so much more, because you’re doing things you love and you’re happy about it. If you can hang on to that skill, you will have a much easier time of high school and college than your dad or I ever did. Keep on doing what you’re doing, my boy.
You are now officially a pre-teen, which is 100,000% insane to me. I can’t quite wrap my head around the concept of a grown-up version of my Gabe. You’ve matured so much over the course of the last two years though, and I can occasionally see glimpses of the teenager and adult you will become.
I’m looking forward to meeting that guy; I think he’s going to be fun and funny and I will enjoy his company. Hopefully he’ll decide that hanging out with his mom is still cool and we can still watch musicals together even when you’re 15, and 18, and all grown up.
This is our last year in England, and I know you’re both excited and sad about that. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the time we’ve had here has been awesome for you from beginning to end. I don’t know that you’d have a single negative thing to say about it. (Maybe that there’s no baseball. But that might be it.) You’ve thrived here.
I think though — I hope — that the happiness and positivity and openness and willingness to try new things you have now is something that you would have grown into no matter where we lived, that it’s just part of who you are. Whether that’s true or not, though, I hope that now you know that no matter where we live, you will make friends, find things you love, and have fun. Now you’ve just got the added bonus of being able to do those things in either an American OR an English accent. So cool.
So on your 11th birthday, I want to finish up by telling you the biggest truth I know: I am so proud of who you are and who you’re becoming as a person, and I am so, so filled with gratitude on a daily basis that I have the privilege to be your mother.
Happy birthday to you, my Gabey-baby!