Happy birthday, Isaac. Nine years ago today you entered the world and changed our lives forever. I’m still not sure where the time has gone – but here we are anyway.
As is traditional, I’ve written you a letter to mark your birthday. So here is a list of ten types of person you have been this past year. I wonder which (if any) of these you will become as an adult?
1. A geek
Books and computers have always been at the heart of who you are. You have a voracious appetite for knowledge and a love of playing with words and numbers, much like me.
After we gave you a Rubik’s cube for Christmas, you taught yourself how to solve it – you didn’t bother asking me for help, you went straight to YouTube – and spent weeks focussed on getting your solve time down to two minutes. I love that you’re so driven when you set your mind to something. It’s a trait that will stand you in good stead.
2. An artist
You’ve always loved to paint and draw, and you have an appreciation of art. I remember you were only five when you pointed to a painting in a restaurant and asked, “Is that a Kandinsky?” (It was.)
At Disneyland Paris this year you attended an animation class where you painstakingly drew a fantastic Tigger. You’re almost certainly not going to be the next Picasso but you might just be an engineer or an architect. I love the care and attention you put in to producing detailed drawings.
3. A foodie
You were suspicious of anything even vaguely exotic for a long time but over the past year or two you have become increasingly adventurous with food. Our traditional dim sum lunch with your grandparents is always a favourite and it’s noticeable now how you’re graduating from child-size portions to near adult-sized ones.
Like your brother and sister, you’re a dab hand in the kitchen too, especially when it comes to making cakes. We’ll get you on Junior Bake Off yet.
4. A musician
I was never much of a musician myself – I played the flute to a middling level as a teenager – but you’ve been playing the piano for a year and a half now and the viola for over a year, and you’ve come on in leaps and bounds.
It’s a big commitment but I hope you continue with at least one of them. You’ve become quite good but I can see that, unlike academic studies, this isn’t something that naturally comes easy to you. Which is all the more reason to persist, really.
5. A handyman
Sorry, I just had to include this one. When we were redecorating your sister’s bedroom you were so keen to assist that I let you do some of the painting yourself.
There’s a streak of helpfulness that runs deep in your nature. I know some of this is because you feel grown up if you can participate in activities such as this but there’s a real generosity of spirit that I hope will stay with you once the testosterone starts flowing.
6. A runner
Your mum and I still aren’t quite sure where your whippet-like shape and loping stride came from. Okay, she has completed a London Marathon but neither of us look like distance runners. (I was strictly a 100-metre sprinter – quite a good one as a teen, but sadly no longer.)
You, however, are much more natural. You’ve added cross-country to your list of activities this year. Someone needs to pick up the mantle from Mo Farah when he retires. Why not you?
7. A dancer
We’ve been a Strictly household for a couple of years now and our autumn Saturday evenings revolve around you dancing with both your siblings.
As with your running, you have a gracefulness of movement that is most certainly not inherited from your father, who is to dancing what Mr Bump is to health and safety. I love watching you dance, not just because you’re good but because you’re so unselfconscious about it. It’s a joy to behold.
8. Abraham Lincoln
Well, you just are. Hopefully no one will decide to shoot you when you visit the theatre, though.
9. A football fan
You had your first taste of live football just the other week when one of your oldest friends invited you to help celebrate his birthday by going with him to watch Reading play. You enjoyed it far more than I expected.
Although it’s already clear you’re not the most naturally sporty boy, I hope you do grow to like sport both as a participant and as a spectator. Not only will it give us something else to talk about but there are so many lessons that sport can teach you: teamwork, persistence, focus. Just remember that you’re supposed to be an Arsenal fan …
10. A brother and a son
Most of all, though, you’re a big brother to Toby and Kara and a son to Heather and I.
This year things have been a bit more niggly between the three of you. I guess that’s an inevitable part of you all being a bit older and demanding. But there are still plenty of moments where the three of you remind us what a great little team you can be, and you remind us about how caring a brother you are.
You’re still (for the most part) a kind, considerate and empathetic young man, and that’s your best quality of all. Whatever you grow up to be – a geek, a musician, a runner, none of the above – I hope that’s the one thing that always stays with you. Do that and you will have a happy and successful life, regardless of what you become. That’s the best advice your dear old dad can offer you.
Happy birthday, kiddo.