Oliver, today you are eight years old.
I know I say this every year, but in my mind you are sometimes still a three-year-old bundle of mischief. Actually, I changed the way I said that this year because, the truth is, you have grown so much in so many ways that I don’t always see you as that little cherubic fireball anymore. Sometimes I see glimpses of that boy you were, in who you still are: endlessly moving, like a perpetual motion machine. An adventurous and ceaseless eater. Someone who runs when another would walk. A pair of big, beautiful, insatiably curious blue eyes taking in the world around you.
But now you are more. So much more.
You were branded in fire last year, and you never once compromised the most amazing part of who you are: your kind and compassionate heart. Those who lashed out at you were not smudged out of your heart. You did not strike back. You were a little pacifist, and what the kids might not have noticed, were probably too young to understand, was how strong that made you. That your strength lies in your unwavering forgiveness, your refusal to take an eye for an eye. You amaze me every day. You teach me every day.
This school year has been so much better for you. I see you with your friends, and they love you. Your teachers adore you. Because of the goodness and laughter you carry with you everywhere you go, you are irresistible. Your older brother is always remarking (complaining?) that everyone asks him if he’s Oliver’s brother. Not “Maxwell”, but “Oliver’s Brother”. Because everyone seems to know you, and they are making associations.
I, for one, am happy to be associated with you.
You love fun. You love to read, and do it well. You don’t care to write, though the stories in your head are plentiful, because your brain tumbles ahead of your poor, lagging pencil. You love video games (some things never change!) but also board games and imaginary play with your brothers. You prefer to talk to just a few people at a time and, if the crowd gets too big, you find a quiet place and sneak off to read. You vibrate with joy everywhere you go, burning more calories than you consume though you never.stop.eating. As a result, your body at eight has an angular, coltish quality that lends itself to clumsiness. Sorry ’bout that…you get it from me. The clumsy part, not the coltish bit.
Here’s what I hope for you for the year you are eight: I hope you stay you. I hope you are exuberant, joyful, gracious, squinty-eyed with laughter. I hope you continue to get better at telling people they can’t treat you badly when they do. Saying a stern “no” is sometimes just as important as a hug, especially when it’s accompanied by your forgiveness. I hope you continue to see the potential for goodness in everyone.
People like me need a you in our lives to remind us what fun is, how brightly and beautifully a light can shine. I am so grateful, your whole family is so grateful, for you just being you.
You are awesome. You are an inspiration. You are eight!
You are infinite.