11 Years Old

How do I talk about 11? Every day is different. 11 is trying on different things to see if they fit you. Including things like sarcasm and insults, only lacking the skill to make it lighthearted and without a sting, as some of those you try to emulate are able to do.

One day you try on sullenness, “Do I have to?”

You torture me with the slowest. possible. way. to do everything.

Other days you try being a smartass, or a know it all, or experiment with telling me how things ought to be done. Things I’ve been managing quite well since before you learned to wipe your own bottom, I might add.

You are.

You are learning your power, how much of it you have, and what to do with it right now, and it is with fear and trembling that I shoulder the task of trying to guide you through it. Well, that and a great deal of impatience because, seriously? What were you thinking?

And yet, I know that these are just like outfits you are trying on, seeing which ones you like the best, that fit with who you are. Underneath, the real you is ever present and shines through. Sullenness is dropped, like the soiled rag that it is, at the flash of a dimple from your little brother and you drop all pretense and engage him in an hours worth of wild chases and monster growls and mock fights. Of course, you are usually not doing something you ought to be doing in order to play with him. But some days I let it go on for a while anyhow, to let him drag you back toward your center and help you remember who you are. The kind, careful, gentle spirited Boy that also loves to play wild, dream big, and spend all day doing it.

Last month we were at the park with some relatively new friends from our homeschool coop. You had a younger boy pinned to the ground and were mock beating him about the head with your elbows while you sat on his chest, being just as loud as one would expect you to be while doing that. His mom came up beside me and said, “It is such a blessing to have him play with my son like that. He’s so tenderhearted. He’s just great with the younger boys, you can tell. They beat on him and he beats them back but he’s really gentle toward them at the same time and really makes sure they all play well together.”

I laughed out loud. That may be the first time ever the mother of a child you were beating on thanked me for the attention you were giving to her son. Which was totally awesome. They get you, and you get them, and you’ve made some real friends who understand how you are made and enjoy it.

But she was right. For all your roughness, and energy, and boyness, you are very gentle, and kind and careful. You are easily hurt by the way others are not as careful as you, when your kindness to BamBam is rewarded by kicks, when someone misunderstands your intentions. These are the things that go deep for you. Because you and I both know that your intention is most often to love.

One of my favorite moments at your birthday party was during the dancing. Yes, you wanted dancing at your hobbit party, and you loved it. Little wanted to dance with you, and only you, and so for 3 songs you danced with her. You held her hands and spun her around and guided her across the dance floor while she gazed up at you adoringly, little blue fairy wings on her back. It was too dark for pictures, so I just watched and let my heart soak in the sweetness of that moment between you, hoping I’ll remember it for years to come.

I do have this one of you sword fighting with her though.

If there’s one thing I hope I can do for you this year it’s to help you overcome your own inertia. I recognize it. It’s something you get from me. You can be a force, an immovable one. You plant your feet and you won’t move, not until you understand fully why you ought to do so. In itself this is a good and useful quality and it will serve you well. But it makes you slow to adapt, and that’s often not good.

I have to figure out how, as the primary person teaching you, to put you in positions where you are forced to just adapt, to move quickly, to try and fail and try again because you need this. I know I did. (Moving to Thailand might be the ticket.) I also know how frustrating it was, for years, before I finally got it and learned how to adapt when needed. Good luck my son. It’s quite the journey.

I love to watch you think, to come up with solutions to problems, to build and figure out things. You decided to take on high school level biology classes this year. And you love them. You learn in spite of me these days. Which is great because I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with many things these days.

You are the biggest help to me, especially when you take the initiative and see something you need fixing. We shall balance this in memory with the number of times you must be called back to complete one single simple assignment that you are not excited about doing. And the number of times a day that happens. But I really could not get through the day without you.

Thank you for being you, for being completely content to be you, and for the work you do to grow in character and strength.

I love you. I’m so glad you still smile at me when I hold your hand, and give me hugs goodnight, and call me your mama.

May this next year be epic!

all content © Carrien Blue

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