I have great intentions, but without deadlines most of those don’t come to fruition. One of the reasons I created a blog was to capture this time when my sons are young. So I’m excited to join a group of friends, moms, and fellow photographers as we share about the boys in our lives on the third Friday of each month. We will be writing a letter to our sons each month. You can follow our blog circle to Kirstin Gourley next, and continue all the way back here.
You were five years old when I first started writing here. One of my favorite posts remains this spotlight on you from 2007. Now you are eleven and writing about you seems so much more complicated. What am I allowed to share? Will I embarrass or misrepresent you? Will I fail to capture memories of you at this age out of fear of falling short?
What I wrote way back then still holds true: “I remind myself often that I am still learning who Aidan is, that he is still learning the same thing, still becoming himself, and will be, probably for as long as I will know him.”
Looking through photos from this year, I notice that while so much has changed (you were always so tall, but now, dear Lord, you’re so grown up!), much remains the same. So many photos of you at the table, concentrating with pen or pencil in hand. Photos of you helping me in the kitchen, whether with the borsch that you detest or with the cranberry relish you adore.
And so many changes. Your long wait for a dog finally ended, and now every photo you take tends to be of Duke. Still good buddies with friends you’ve had since you were five (Elijah, Hayden, Alex) and making new friends along the way (Soren and Pinyon). This was the first year you didn’t play baseball (*sigh*), but you snowboarded and played basketball, and got your first skate board. Moved from Shine Time to Tween Time at KZMU. Learned you are near-sighted and got your first pair of glasses. You wrote and acted in your first short film with SpyHop this summer.You flew to Boston with your 5th grade class in the spring, and relished your taste of independence (though your body paid you back for all that soda you consumed---I never want to forget your wise words to Nolan as you were curled up on our bed, “Nolie, learn from my mistakes.”)
You still read more than anyone I know (which is saying something as all my good friends are readers). The recent big hits have been the Fablehaven Series, The Sisters Grimm series, and Ungifted. Comics like Cul de Sac and Bloom County have you constantly trying to share jokes with us in fast 100-words-per-second retellings. Your own comics (Duke the Dog, Supes, Smart Alex, and KidBot) line our walls, appear in your school paper, and are the inspiration for Comic Creators, the afterschool group you’re helping lead.
Four paragraphs in and I’ve captured only facts. See how carefully I want to tread? I was more sure of my footing in 2005. You still go to the beat of your own drum, and it is one of my very favorite things about you. It isn’t always easy to know when we should ask the world to conform to you, and when you should conform to the world, and when neither should conform but just let each other be.
We haven’t hit teenage angst yet, though you’ve definitely mastered the eye roll already. I find myself thinking of Dar Williams’ lyrics from “When I Was a Boy.” She sings about all that she gave up when she left childhood behind and tried to fit into society’s idea of a woman. In the final verse, her friend tells her that he’s had losses too, and what he misses most from his childhood:
my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry, now even when I'm alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
We still talk, and I hope we always do. Last week we enjoyed “Gravity” together---and you are still a great movie partner, on the edge of your seat with excitement and so emphatic afterwards about how awesome the movie was. How I enjoy that! With questions from school, plots from your latest book to share, and jokes---oy, the 11 yr. old boy humor.
I remember you getting hurt in a parking lot at the young age of three, and telling me it was just sweat, not tears on your cheeks. I remember looking at the sky wondering where did this come from---no one had ever told you not to cry. Weeks later you announced, apropos of nothing: “I’m done with crying.” Thankfully that wasn’t true, but I admit, I worry that the mixed-up messages from our culture about what it means to be a man will stifle you, will push you to live without vulnerability, without the full-color range of emotions available to you (as your pal Scott McCloud describes emotions—primary colors that mix into infinite tones).
You haven’t lost any kindness. Watching you when your brothers are in need, in your attention to Duke, interacting with Miss Bobbie and your grandparents, I am in awe of your awareness, your intuitive sense of what others need, and your kindness.
You may move too fast for my shutter speed, Aidan, but I want you to know I see you. My vision may be clouded with my own expectations and hopes and fears, but I have faith in you. I’m as crazy about you at eleven as I was about you at one. I’m slowly learning to give you more space, more control, and more responsibility. The notion that we only have seven more years with you living under our roof and at our table daily leads me to panic. There’s not enough time for all I want to share with you, all the places I want to take you and your brothers, all the memories I want us to create.
Discord comes from our doing. Compassion comes from undoing. –Karen Maezen Miller
And then I wake up, and see that the future is not here but meanwhile you are! Right here in front of me. So glorious to behold!
More than all the stars,