Isaac, you are ten years old today. Oh. My. God. A whole decade has passed since you slithered your way into the world, literally making a splash as you dived head-first into the birthing pool in our dining room. So, as is now traditional, here is my annual birthday letter to you.
You’ve been through so much change this past year. You’re growing in every sense of the word. In terms of height, you’re already as tall as your Grandma. And, on top of that, the hormones have kicked in. (Oh boy, have they just!)
I know that has been unsettling for you. Believe me, it has been unsettling for your mum and me too. We can still see the old you underneath it all: the sensitive boy, the caring big brother. But there have been times when adjusting to the changes in you has been, well, challenging, both for you and for us.
As a result, I’ve been hard – too hard – on you too often during this past year. I’m sorry for that and I’ll try to be better. Just understand that it comes from a well-intentioned place, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
It’s been quite a year, though. You started playing cricket for a local village junior team. We’ve been to watch Twenty20 cricket (twice), motor racing and an NFL game. And you’ve even started doing ballroom and Latin dancing classes. Not to mention a couple of holidays in the UK and our massive 17-day road trip across Europe. A pretty good year, all in all.
Let me offer you some free advice
I recently wrote a letter to you and your siblings containing some advice to pass on to you in the event of my early death. My advice to you in that letter still stands. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Nobody expects you to be perfect. Just be the best you can be.
One thing you’ll learn is that you do become wiser as you get older but that doesn’t mean you’ll ever be perfect. None of us are. It’s okay to admit that you’re flawed. In fact, you will be stronger if you do.
I am inimitable, I am an original
Here’s some more advice. Be yourself. Now more than ever.
Don’t let others sway you. Peer pressure is a fiendishly difficult thing to resist – but resist you must. You will grow up a happier person. As a great man once wrote, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” (I’ll teach you about Shakespeare one day. I think you’ll like his work.)
Take it from me. I spent too much of my teens and my twenties worrying about what other people thought of me or trying to be what I thought they expected of me. The cool kids at school. University tutors. Work colleagues. I spent so much time looking up to or comparing myself with other people that I never stopped to think about what was right for me. As another famous writer once wrote, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
It took me too long to learn that lesson for myself. Don’t be as slow as I was.
At least I have a friend with me
I’ve been trying to sum up what’s great about our relationship – and then the perfect example happened last weekend. It wasn’t a big moment, just a small one. But then so many of life’s best moments are the inconsequential ones. It was Saturday morning. You crept into bed with me and we spent half an hour singing songs together from Hamilton and talking about the musical’s story. Just the two of us. While you take more after your mum, that tendency to geekery is something you definitely share with me.
I hope we will always have something like that in common that the two of us can share and bond over. It’s the little things such as this that make our relationship unique. And it’s why, no matter what bumps we may encounter along the way, you will always be so special to me.
There are times when I have to be your father, with all that entails. But there will hopefully always be times when I can just be your friend as well.
Happy birthday, son.
P.S. The headings in this letter are taken from the lyrics of Hamilton songs (respectively, Aaron Burr, Sir, Wait For It and Yorktown). But then you knew that already, didn’t you?
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