Nine whole years

My darlin O

So now you are 9. NINE! Your last year of single digits. Every single year has seen so many changes as you grow and grow. From baby to toddler, from toddler to preschooler, preschooler to primary. And yet I never stop marvelling at the changes one single year can bring. How much you grow into yourself, develop interests or skills, become more you.  

The physical changes are really the least of them but they are still notable. You have of course grown taller and ever leaner.  It seems I am forever noticing your trousers are a bit tighter in the waist, shorter in the leg.  Who would have guessed that squidgey round little ball of a boy, all crinkles and dimples and soft round edges would be one of the slimmest in his class, all elbows and knees and hard sharp angles? Even that beautiful face, once so round I used to joke we could barely see the bones underneath is now slim and defined. Your eyes are always the same; gorgeous big blues framed with thick black lashes that go on for days and have the Mamas and Abuelas cooing over you wherever we go. Still. Always.  

You are a gorgeous kid but it pales in comparison to your lovely gentle soul. There is something different about you that I have never been able to put my finger on. There is a goodness, a very sweet innocence  that just pours out of you and is picked up by anyone around you. You are thoughtful and kind hearted, so eager to please, so keen to be liked.  You move through the world in a happy, dreamy, bubble, more or less oblivious to the world around you. This makes you, on the one hand, one of the clumsiest kids I know, and believe me I identify with you on this. Your ability to enter a room and somehow inadvertantly clout your brother on the head while spilling something is unsurpassed in this house. It also makes you oblivious to many of the uglier things in life. Everything in this world is amazing to you, it is all beautiful and wonderful. You rarely complain about anything. Quite the opposite; you have an infectious wonder about the world and a positivity that makes me smile for days. You are a great travel companion because you find beauty everywhere. Your friends come over and you run me ragged with requests for smoothies, or pancakes or some other home made treat. Not even food, maybe a craft we recently did together that you want to share. To you these everyday things are AMAZING and you want everyone to share in your enjoyment. The world through your eyes is a truly beautiful place and I wish it was easier to always share that view. 

You are bouncy, a real tigger, chatting a mile a minute, full of ideas, never still, always looking for what to do next. We have still never found your off button BUT this year an amazing thing has happened. You will suddenly go to your room to just hang out in peace and quiet (!), not often and not for long but it happens. Waking you in the morning is getting harder (you have always PINGED awake at about 7am) and that feels significant, a sign of pubescent years to come. This is a Great Thing because your endless energy is hard for us mere mortals to deal with. It can be hard to keep up and there were times it felt like you would never learn to enjoy a bit of quiet and peace (and give us some of the same!).   

You have become more independant. Not so long ago you  wouldn’t go upstairs alone, much less the garden. This year you have started walking to the football ground with friends, running to the shop at the end of the road to pick something up, the other day even going to the park alone. These are difficult milestones for most parents I would guess. We worry so much. But your courage has been hard won and I can’t bring myself to give you any cause to wobble by showing fear or worry at this point. I secretly call your Dad “should I let him go?” “Is it safe, will he be okay?” and so we loosen the cord a little more, giving you more freedom, anxiously waiting for you to come back safe, fighting the urge to sneak out and check on you. This are not small accomplishments. You worry a lot and it can paralyse you so these ‘small’ steps show how much you have grown in yourself, in your confidence.  

You have played football for 2 years now. All your friends play and more than anything, ever, you want to be where the action is. You asked to be goalie. It was a good choice. I know many people assume goalkeeping, in younger kids anyway, is for kids that don’t really want to play, run, do too much, but we thought it was very astute of you to pick that position. You can’t run very fast, by your own admission, and you get tired very easily.  You were never a kid that ran and ran like some kids do. It has always been a bit harder for you.  So goalie seemed a good choice. But it wasn’t a cop out, you never took that position to just stand there,  you gave it your all; you would dive for the ball with no fear at all, totally focussed and determined. Training 3 times a week plus a match at the weekend and you never asked to miss even one. And it is not an easy position. Your team have not had a good season and we try to make light that at least you and the other goalie get a good workout stopping goals. It is true. Without you two the losses would be greater and yet you still take the greatest part of the heat when matches are lost. It is hard as a parent to stand there and watch you on the pitch when it is not going well. You really have reached that age where we can no longer always rush in and comfort you or make it better. You have to stand there alone and make the best of it for yourself. One match went really wrong and you started crying in goal. You are not a kid that cries easily. My heart felt like it was tearing in two. It took everything I had to not run in, scoop you up and take you home, like I could have done, would have done only a couple of years ago. I had to just shout my support, tell you to keep your head up, keep going. We were both so proud of you. You were in a hard position but you stayed the course.  

It is a hard process for both of us to let you find your own way through these challenges.  For you, because undoubtedly some things do feel like they are getting harder, like you are noticing for the first time the unfairnesses in life. For me,  because of course I still want to make it all ok with a cuddle but increasingly I am reminded that you are moving away from that now. It feels sometimes like we  have arrived at this line in the sand where you are you, on one side, and I am me in the other.There is no longer the overlap there was when you were small, when the hurts were simple and easily fixed. Where we were so entwined as to seem like two parts of the same person. My little shadow, always just a step behind me, holding onto the edge of my shirt to keep the connection physically real.  Always sat not next to me but practically on top of me, it felt at times like you wanted to climb back inside my skin, no closeness was close enough.  Now you often want to walk ahead of us the last little way into school.  Not for embarrassment but I think just to feel big, slowly test the feeling of seperateness. Any kisses have to be grabbed (with permission, of course!) before we reach a certain point on the journey where friends might see.  Cuddles are often clumsy affairs as you launch in with all the energy of a 3 year old but the grace of a newborn giraffe.  Pointy hurty joints and all. At a strange height which leaves me halfway between a lean and a crouch and not knowing where to put my arms and head. Yet you will hold my hand as we walk down the road and you still want to be tucked into bed and read a story. You are not above a cuddle on the sofa as we watch tv.   But you are standing on your own two feet like never before.  On your side of the line in the sand. Yourself, separate from me.  You look poised to take off, and off and off.  And it is harder than you can know not to hold onto the hem of your shirt, trail behind. That is my task. To breathe, and let go. Be here. On the sidelines cheering you on. 

Your football craze grows and grows – you are not just mad about playing football but also watching it, listening to it, talking about it, collecting football cards and head full of trivia. Where once you were practically glued to me and had barely a second glance for your Dad now you are his shadow, following him around bending his ear about the latest football news. I find myself wondering how to connect with you, what we can have in common. I knew this would come, it is only natural after all, but it doesn’t make it any easier.  We read a lot together and as I run you here or there I reassure myself that it is enough. It is okay just that I am here. I feel like the support artist, the behind the scenes assistant all dressed in black so as not to disturb the main show. Maybe you don’t notice now but – just know. Like planning the trip to see your football team, working out dates and buying game tickets and plane tickets and sorting hotel.  Writing the clues for the treasure hunt that would reveal the biggest present of your life so far. So you could go with your Dad.  How much I wanted to go just to spend 90minutes watching your enraptured face as you watched the match. But that wasn’t for me to share. It was a special trip for  you and your Dad. As it should be. But I am always, always, here.  Trying to smooth your way in anyway I can.  Watching and cheering you on. 

It really has been a year in which you have grown up in many ways. You are a lovely, lovely child and I am so happy you are mine. 

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