Today you are eleven. As I write this, a couple of weeks ago, I’m sitting at my desk listening to you sing along to 80s tunes. Your favorite thing to do these days is to wear your new Beats headphones (thank you, Hadley) and listen to 80s metal (Living on a Prayer, Eye of the Tiger, Sweet Child of Mine, etc) as you do your homework. You make me laugh so hard. One recent morning, you were drinking milk in the kitchen while singing Eye of the Tiger. I kept telling you to hurry, because we had to get to school. You screwed up your face and sang louder. I burst out laughing remembering how many times I drank beverages – admittedly, never milk – with Eye of the Tiger playing in the background.
You’re becoming who you are – or, more accurately, growing into who you’ve always been. You are funny, funny, funny. You’re also thoughtful and sensitive, the first person in the family to remember to ask how a doctor’s appointment was or a how a big meeting went. You don’t miss a single beat, ever. You have the memory of an elephant, which means I have to pay attention to what I say, because you will never forget it. Ever. The combination of comedic bluster and deep sensitivity is at the core of your charm but also causes you some pain. The ease with which you take things to heart isn’t always apparent, and you’re sliced by the world in ways that you – and that world, frankly – find surprising.
You are an avid hockey player (number 14, like your father before you, and your team’s leader in penalty minutes so far this year) and you play baseball, too (this year, you were drafted onto the Yankees in the major league, a tough pill for this Red Sox family to swallow, but your new coach and team seem great). Your truest love, though, seems to be science and inventing. You’re a maker at heart. This year your father and I bought you a workbench for the basement and set it up, and you love to go down to work with your soldering iron and various projects.
You want to be an engineer, specifically a robot designer, when you grow up. If I was placing bets, I’m pretty sure you will do something in the engineering realm. You are fascinated by scientific experiments and the periodic table and your favorite recent movie was The Martian. In fact, you routinely mutter under your breath, “I’m going to have to science the *heck* out of this,” in homage to that movie. You’ve always been a child who asks “why,” but lately I find myself turning to you with my questions. For instance, on a morning run a few weeks ago, I wondered why it is that the sky is blue. I honestly did not know. And I thought, well, I can ask Whit. So I did, and, naturally, you had an immediate and concise answer.
You still sleep with four animals (Beloved, Beloved’s Brother, and two others) and in the mornings you line them up carefully on your pillow. This goes in tandem with the most cursory making-of-the-bed I’ve ever seen; the care with which you handle your dear animals and the speed with which you yank up your covers is, in combination, a great example of who you are. You remind me of my father, in your fascination with the way things work, in your absorption in a project, in your dogged desire to really understand a problem. Just yesterday, my Dad (whose judgment about people I trust implicitly) told me that you will “carve a deep furrow,” and I agree with him. It’s an honor to be standing here watching.
You love to read, and some of my favorite moments are when you and I sit in my bed next to each other reading. I’ll forever remember 2015 as the year of Rick Riordan, because you spent much of it tearing through several of his series. You also love Harry Potter, which I’m reading aloud to you. This has been a multi-year effort, and something you and I both really love; I read all 7 with your sister in the same way. We are halfway through book 6. One of your Christmas presents was a tee shirt which says on the front “I Solemnly Swear I am Up to No Good,” and I wasn’t sure you’d wear it. But you do, often and proudly. In many ways, actually, Harry’s mischievous, thoughtful, and loyal nature reminds me of you. He – and you – are excellent at some things and couldn’t care less about others.
You are funny and wise, and your observations about life, big and small, often stop me in my tracks. You’re exceedingly aware of what’s going on around you and are able to make me giggle (like when you sang Ellie Goulding to me every day when I had vertigo, warbling “world is spinning round and round”) and cry (like when you observed that while Grace gets all the firsts, you get all the lasts) daily. You are blond and blue-eyed and small and fiesty. I know someday I won’t be able to carry you and curl into a twin bed with you to say prayers before bed, but for now, while I can, I will. You still let me hold your hand sometimes crossing the street and come up to my office to deliver a hug when you get home from school. I have so many, many wishes for you, my dear Whit, but one of the most fierce is that you never stop feeling the range of feelings you experience now. I don’t want the world to tell you not to feel. You do, and deeply, and it’s both familiar to me and something I’m proud of in a son (in a child of any gender, of course, but, somehow, this trait feels more threatened in a boy).
Your blue eyes, your blond hair, and your boy-ness startled me 11 years ago today when you were born in the wee hours of the morning, blazing into the world after a very short labor that I experienced mostly alone. It was cold and clear and a blizzard began shortly after you arrived. You were, and are, my last baby, my first boy, my dearly beloved son, the person who healed wounds I didn’t even realize I had from the deep postpartum depression I experienced after your sister’s birth. I adore you unconditionally, and every single day that I get to spend as your mother is a privilege.
Happy eleventh birthday, Whit.