Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Tobin is TEN.
Today you turn ten years old. You’ll have to give me a moment, while I steady myself, because it has gone by so fast . . . and yet it feels like I have always been your mom. When I first met you--after a routine pregnancy, labor and delivery--you were bundled in a blanket with a little hat on your head. You were quiet and wide-eyed. And perfect. In some sense, you will always be that bright-eyed baby to me. I can’t hold you and protect you like I could back then, but that doesn’t mean I won’t spend the rest of my life trying to do so--hopefully in ways that also give you the freedom and courage to become who you truly are.
So this letter is a little different. In past years, I’ve just written a post about you on each birthday. But this year, it feels right to write to you. I’m aware of your increasing maturity and curiosity and know that some day very soon you might be interested in reading this blog. I also hope that writing to you helps me think more considerately about what I write about you.
Just as this is a milestone birthday--a whole decade in the books--this has been a milestone year for you. You started the fourth grade, which at your school means you moved out of the first-through-third-grade class you’d been in for three wonderful years and entered a new class with a new teacher and mostly new friends. I am thankful in particular for one familiar face in your class, your friend Oskar. The two of you have been together in class since first grade and will finish your time in elementary school in the same class. You have a number of friends, but it seems that Oskar is special to you and I know he adores you. I feel grateful that you have a friendship like this.
You have handled most transitions really well. You are brave and kind and willing to try new things, even if you’re not sure about them. I think about you starting soccer and baseball at the tender age of four. And starting a new school in the first grade. But fourth grade felt a little different, kind of a bigger deal, and maybe not as easy of a transition. Your new teacher, like your previous teacher, is really great. He is, however, very different from your last teacher, and I think getting to know him and adjusting to his classroom expectations caused you some anxiety. I could sense it and see it in those first few weeks of school when you seemed apprehensive at the start of each school day. Through it all, we tried to talk to you about it, but I think it was hard for you to articulate your anxiety other than to just say you were nervous.
Proving what a caring person he is, your teacher kept checking in with me about how you were doing. In one of those conversations, he remarked about how “shy” you were. I’ll admit I had always thought of you as quiet and reserved, but I had never used the label “shy.” I pondered this for a while and began to think about how your easy-going personality, positive demeanor and considerate behavior may have masked how truly introverted you are. I realized then that some of your school anxiety may have revolved also around being with a largely-unfamiliar group of fellow students. Thinking about this helped me further understand how incredibly brave you are. I don’t doubt that getting to know new people is especially hard for you, but you’ve always been willing to do it.
We have certainly watched much of your anxiety ease as you’ve grown more comfortable and confident in your classroom. Again, I give a lot of credit to your teacher because he really emphasizes that your classroom is a community--and tailors his expectations and lesson plans accordingly. I also think you deserve so much credit for showing up, even when it was hard, and being willing to learn and grow. As you become more self-aware, you might be better able to describe when and why you are anxious, but what I want you to know is that I love you because of who you are--just as you are.
This is important for me to say because you are very good at many things. You are a model student. Your classroom and other teachers marvel at your aptitude and compliment your kind, considerate personality. You are a good big brother. I think life with two younger siblings is teaching you a lot about patience and mercy. I know learning these things hasn't always been easy or seemed "fair," but I hope when you're not annoyed by Evan and Lauren, you can see how much they adore and admire you. You are skilled in the team sports you play--baseball and soccer--and even have a knack for shooting the basketball, which you just play casually in our drive-way or on the school playground. You are an avid reader. You tear through books and are even reading books your dad also likes to read and discuss with you. This year that's been TWO five-book Rick Riordan series. You are a passionate, informed sports fan, which your dad and I particularly love. It's especially fun to talk to you about the NFL and college hoops. And watching games with you--even our favorite team's Super Bowl loss and UNC's NCAA championship loss--has made for poignant memories this year. And I'll add here that this spring's baseball season has been really joyful. Your team is well-coached, skilled and, currently, undefeated. We've always emphasized that winning isn't everything, and you've taken that to heart quite well. But it's also true that winning can be a lot of fun. I couldn't be happier that you're having so much fun.
But in describing all these things you do really well and all the ways you make me proud, I want you to also understand that none of it makes me love you any more or less. My love was solidified the moment I laid eyes on you, ten years ago today. My hope and prayer is that you will move forward into your second decade knowing just that: you will never have to earn my love. You’ve got it--always.
Your first decade has been the most important decade of my life. Thank you, sweet son. You have been my greatest teacher. I look forward to watching you continue to learn about yourself and life, buoyed by love.
Posted by allison at 1:22 PM