Thursday, May 18, 2017
Tobin is ELEVEN.
Today you turn eleven years old. Your hair is longer than last year. Your smile is broader. Your quips are quicker. You're taller. And we both get a kick out of how your shoe size is now big enough that I can slip my size-seven feet into your flip flops and rain boots.
You are growing up. It's true, you've been doing this all along, but this year, time has slipped by especially quickly and, with it, you have eased into yourself a little more. I notice this especially at school, when surrounded by friends, you are more comfortable with the attention you receive. While you don't seek out attention, like your little sister, you are a measure more comfortable with it. You seem to understand that you are liked and respected--something that has been true all your life, but somehow it seems to rest a bit easier on you.
You have an awesome teacher. This is your second year in his classroom, and I marvel at how a kid who had a lot going for him had the fortune of landing in this class--where expectations are high and you thrive under them. We are so grateful. Last year was great; this year has been transformative. Earlier this year, in a parent-teacher conference, your teacher shared his hope that you would demonstrate more leadership. I processed this with some protectiveness on your behalf, but I trusted your teacher and you to figure this out. You met the challenge. You're still you: understated and quiet. But people listen when you speak up. You help fourth graders with math. You took on the role of Lysander in your class's rendition of A Midsummer's Night Dream and are diligently preparing for your performance the last week of school.
You've been a leader at home, too. This year has been one of transition with me returning to part-time work. Our family schedule has changed such that it's not always possible for me to pick you and your siblings up from school. So y'all have started riding the bus home a few days a week. And sometimes, you arrive home just a few minutes before me. You let yourselves in the house and call me from the home phone to let me know you're safely home. I hear the pride in your voice and the quiet confidence: "It's all good, Mom. We've got this."
I am trying hard to be open to that message, especially from you, my oldest child. I still want to protect you and make life easy for you when I can, but I also am increasingly aware that you can do hard things. Most recently, at the ballpark, I've winced when you've struck out and found myself wishing, for you, that you could get into a more consistent hitting groove. But what I've also noticed is how after a strike-out, yours is often the first, loudest voice I hear from the dugout, cheering the next batter on. While I wish baseball could come as easily for you as many other things, I realize that you are learning something from not being the best at something you try. You understand the value of teamwork and that sometimes your role is to encourage, not be the star. You understand that other people can hit more consistently than you and can be okay with it--even happy for them. You are understanding that we each contribute in our own way; life is not a zero-sum game. And you've learned the value of showing up, each spring since you were four years old.
I'm thinking a lot about this as you head into your next transition: middle school next year. I have my own anxieties based on what I remember of middle school. This is the part of parenting that's hard: reminding myself that you are not extensions of your dad and me. You are you. You've already expressed some anticipatory sadness about leaving your elementary school and especially your current classroom community. I get it; it will be sad. But you've also talked about trying out for the middle school soccer team and choosing electives like Latin. I don't expect next year or the rest of middle school to be easy, but what I do hope is that you will learn something more about yourself and everybody else.
Heading into your twelfth year is no different from the day you were born. You are an amazing, precious person. And yet this year will also be totally different, because you will encounter new things that change you and teach you. You are growing up, but you are already you. And I'm more grateful than I can adequately express to be here for another one of your trips around the sun, loving you and appreciating you for who you already are.
Happy birthday, kiddo. May you feel the love--today and every day.