Today you turned 10 years old.
Every year (every.single.year! I know!) I mention how impossible your aging process seems to me. I’m not sure why; you’re a human boy, blessed with all the physical necessities for continuous growth and well-being, and yet it is somehow still so strange to me that you don’t look like this:
Or even this:
But rather, like this tall drink of water:
This year has been such an exciting one for you. You travelled outside the U.S. for the first time (sort of? what is a commonwealth or an “unincorporated territory”, anyway?) when we all flew down to Puerto Rico over your spring break. It was the light at the very long tunnel of both your parents finishing higher education degree programs, and we had a grand time together that week-and-a-half. You, perhaps, had the grandest time of all…your first flight! Swimming and almost, but not actually, being carried off to sea! Watching umpteen million episodes of Teen Titans GO! D&D! Running uninhibited along the 16th-century ramparts! You were in your element, let me tell ya.
It was such a good time, in fact, that I knew you were more than ready for your next travel adventure: the long-awaited pilgrimage to NYC. For the first time in probably your whole life, you got both of your parents all to yourself for an entire long weekend…AND you got to see New York! I could (and should!) write a whole separate post about that trip, but suffice it to say, you are now a most seasoned man-of-the-world, and it was my absolute privilege to make your horizons a bit broader this past year.
You learned to swim, you played tennis all summer long, you started piano lessons and really enjoy playing. You found books you love (finally!) and can’t get your fill of manga. You’ve read all the Yu-Gi-Oh that the local libraries have in their collection. We also did a lot of work together this past year to get your busy body and your busy mind into better alignment. You felt comfortable in school for the first time in awhile, in large part because of the effort you put into your extra-curricular work. You still don’t love handwriting, but you found muscles you never knew you had, you found (some) persistence. You found a calm center, somewhere deep within, that had been hidden by all the ceaseless movement of your younger years.
While you left some things behind, the very Ollie-est parts you carried along with you, still. Your humor. Your caring heart. Your innate curiosity and openness to the world. Your fiendish cleverness, now honed into keen strategy. Your mind is full of facts, and while they are mostly pertaining to Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh characters, you have a knack for memorization that puts your old folks to shame. Your current D&D character is a wizard and you play its backstory with compassion, while adroitly recalling spells (in all their minutiae) to suit each challenge the team faces. And speaking of “teams”, you really understand what that’s about, how to listen to another’s perspective and share yours in the hopes of reaching a peaceful consensus.
Even though you’re the peacemaker, you still tussle with your brothers, though. Constantly. You are, after all, a ten-year-old boy and a middle brother, so it only stands to reason…
We lost some beloveds this year, too, unfortunately. It was the first time you’ve been old enough to really understand death, and as a parent it’s one of the most terrifying things about parenting: how do I explain the temporal, fleeting nature of life to my young children in a way that is meaningful, but not frightening? How do I navigate the process when my own heart feels so broken? Your response was, simply, remarkable. When your pet hamster, Wilbert, bid his farewell to this plane you accepted the tender condolences of your brothers, but had a remarkable frankness about the passage. “All things must die, sometime,” you said, with a touch of awe and sorrow but a more impressive measure of quiet assurance. You have a faithful heart, an antidote to my own angry and questioning spirit in the face of death. You humble me. When our family recently lost two incredible, amazing, utterly indescribable matriarchs, you were reverent and steady. Your great and great-great aunts adored your heart, and you continue their legacy of peace and love and cheerfulness in every step you take in this world. Great-great Aunt Betty always got a chuckle out of your antics, but your great aunt Linda pinned no less than the fate of the world on your more-than-capable shoulders:
And I’m more than inclined to agree with her. I saw it in you the very first moment we met, that your heart was sent to teach me, and all who know you, what goodness is all about. It’s fitting that you were born with the sunrise, my sunny child. Stay gold, Ollie-Bear.