Today, Kale turns 12! Very exciting news. Facebook thoughtfully served me up a lifetime of annual photos and reminded me that 2016, his 8th birthday, was the last time I wrote a public letter to my favourite son (the others are here: Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, and One). I don’t know why I stopped with my letters, and I am regretful I did, as these were a really wonderful way to review our year. But lo, there is social media to keep track of things. In truth, I’m much more mindful of posting Kale’s picture to social media these days as my child navigates social stuff and has Thoughts™ about his online persona and so when I do post, I obtain his permission. So here are a few great photos to reminisce about from this past year followed by the newly resurrected letter to my son on his birthday.
This year has been a challenge for you, as you navigated middle school with a teacher that you didn’t connect with, and a new cohort of students to try to blend in to. Because yes, kiddo, this year you absolutely just wanted to blend in. You are not interested in being in theatre, having musical solos, or competition – whatsoever. You’re game for fun – but no way do you want to be the star.
You found your group of kids at school, and you have been navigating the mess that is middle school by counting down days till the breaks, and by gritting your teeth through the days you couldn’t blend in or your teacher made you feel like a failure. We have found new coping techniques for you, such as using mindfulness apps to help you shut off the brain when it won’t be still.
You tried cooking and sewing for the first time in earnest and did pretty good. You hated shop more than I expected, and you lost your passion for trumpet without the guidance of a teacher. I really hope it returns next year when band is an actual class. But you flourished with your social club – The Buttoneers – and your marks are predictably and consistently incredible. You are a bookworm and proud of it. I will probably spend thousands of dollars on hardcover books before you’re an adult; gotta get those first edition novels as soon they’re out, right?
You are a dichotomy these days. You straddle the line of young boy and teenager, of independence and of needing us to hold your hand, of wanting to do things and being lazy. You are sweaty and sweet. You are angular bones and softness. You are a creature of habit and the absent minded professor combined. You are meh and yeet all wrapped up into one.
This was a tough year to navigate for me as well – after years of having been hyper-involved in the PAC in elementary school I needed a break, and had to find a balance of how involved I was for you at school. We seemed to have found an easy place to hang out in though; I ask you when you need my help, but otherwise guide you through your emotions without trying to problem-solve. You told me you cried a lot, especially the first few months, and it made me so sad. But, as so typical of you this year, you also waved it off as no big deal.
And then, then freakin’ pandemic.
Man, being a tweenager during the pandemic has got to be really hard. There were so many tears in those first few weeks. Perhaps from the lack of rigidity of school, or perhaps from the anxiety that was contagious between us all, but there were a lot of tears. From both of us. We had to constantly say “done is better than perfect” and I want to think that maybe? maybe that is sinking in? as you’ve started to let go of your perfectionism a bit.
We’re coming out of it now, the pandemic and the feeling that things suck. I am worried about how you will remember this: was it a time when we grew closer or was it scary? Or maybe both? I don’t really know how you will look back on this. But you, you are optimistic for grade seven in your eternal sunny way and you are looking forward to staycations and hanging with friends (they’re not ‘playdates’ anymore, apparently) and relaxing with fizzy drinks on the stoop with us. You are kindhearted and I love watching you grow.
I will always be here for you. Always. I love you, kiddo.