Today Kale turns 13. The age of teenagerdom has begun. Amidst a pandemic, a heat wave, and a climate crisis, there are still things to celebrate. And so, to mark this day, I write a letter to my son on the anniversary of his birth.
My most favourite child, welcome to being a teenager! You have arrived here like a tumbling puppy, all stink and softness and scratchy bits combined. This has been a truly remarkable year as you have navigated the isolation, loneliness, and rules related to the pandemic while also trying to grow and thrive. I feel confident that we have grown closer as a family this past 16 months, and your dad and I have been watching you grow into this remarkable person: funny, warm, kind, thoughtful, and – to my great delight – filled with humourous sarcasm and a good sense of timing.
You had a teacher this year your really gelled with that was so many opposites to the one you had last year. Your love of science and math increased exponentially but you also discovered an enjoyment of sewing and cooking that’s just starting to blossom. You’re still playing your trumpet, which I’m pleased about, and you’ve honed in on a love of tennis and frisbee, though you left karate as soon as the pandemic started. You outgrew your old bike this year, and we stretched our budget to buy you a new one which you enjoy riding.
Your report card, while not terribly important to me, reflects a much more relaxed approach to learning this year. The perfectionism seems to be better managed and comments about your role in the classroom as a thoughtful contributor are so lovely to read. Surprisingly this year, you’ve expressed an interest in aerospace engineering as a potential career, moving away from writing and editing (which, tbh, is probably a better fit given your current interests and skills – you are still not a fan of putting in the work to write descriptive and compelling words, preferring instead to do the absolute minimum required.)
Your friends this year have become very close, mostly because the pandemic forced us all to tighten up our social circles and move away from outings with big groups. You get along with almost everyone, however, regardless of age, and whether you know it or not, I see you strive to find common ground to connect with each person about.
You’re deep into video gaming and watching YouTube producers about your favourite games, and you’re a huge fan of silly animal videos. This year I’ve really given you some decision making power about the online content, games, and social media you consume and participate in and I really trust you to not only approach things critically but also openly.
You’ve not shown any romantic interests this year that you’ve told us about, but you have definitely changed in ways that tell me you’re starting to go through puberty. You went shopping recently for deodorant and you’re sporting a little peach-fuzzy faint moustache on your lip. You still refuse to cut your hair aside from maintenance trims and an undercut for tangles, and I respect that. You are constantly misgendered because of your hair, and you always approach that with grace.
Also this year you got braces. The first few weeks kind of sucked, but you definitely are used to them now. You’re missing some of your favourite foods like mixed nuts and gummy candies, but like so many other things, your approach is sunny and cheerful and optimistic.
The end of the pandemic is on the horizon. We are mostly vaccinated at our house, with just you left to get your second dose. We’ve been talking about travel again, and sketching out plans for where to next. You are thrilled that you get to go back to your favourite sleepaway camp while you’re still within the age ranges to do so.
I have been much more cautious about sharing your life on my social media channels and respecting boundaries as you age. In prepping for this letter, I clicked through and only found a few pictures to share. But as we have done since you were born, I still insisted on our annual family photo taken from a bed:
While children change so much from year to year, the years after 13 feel especially tumultuous and I think that is because the child is now suddenly aware of their role in that change. You are the captain of your ship, my best kid, and you get to chart your course. I am here to guide you and help you figure out the person you are, and especially to help you plan new routes and detours as things come up, but you get to decide what your destination is. I hope I can be your constant if things get a bit rough. I will always love you and will be here for you.
Stay curious, stay humble, and stay kind.