Happy birthday, Isaac. On this day twelve years ago, you emerged into the world and changed our lives forever. Today you’re a young man racing towards adulthood.
Every year, when I reflect on the previous twelve months, I realise how much you have changed. Your twelfth year was no exception. If I were to sum it up in one sentence, I would say it has been a year of milestones. Some of these have been relatively small, while others have been more life-changing. But each of these is significant in its own way and tells us something about you.
Hanging on the telephone
At Easter, we finally gave you your own mobile. With it, you’ve shown a genuine eye for a creative image. I shouldn’t be surprised – you are part of the Instagram generation, after all!
You’ve also demonstrated that you can be trusted. You’re sensible in how you use and think about social media and aware of its pitfalls. So while we’ll continue to insist that we have access to your phone and social media accounts, I don’t feel the need to monitor you as closely given your mature attitude.
Okay, it would be good if you didn’t spend quite so much time with your nose buried in your phone. But I do understand that it’s literally the hub of a youngster’s life these days. (Also, I’m no better …)
July saw your time at primary school come to an end. You served as head boy with distinction. And again you earned deserved recognition at the school’s end-of-year awards.
Back in March we found out that you had earned a place at Reading School. The transition to secondary school is always a big step. In your case, it involved your commute to school changing from a seven-minute walk to a solo train journey into Reading followed by a 25-minute walk, complete with a significantly earlier start and later finish.
We were reasonably sure you were mature enough to cope with the extra responsibility and burden. Even so, your mum and I were as apprehensive as you were about it. We needn’t have worried. Not for the first time, I was impressed with how easily you took it all in your stride. Now it’s just part of your daily routine and another sign of how grown up you are.
What I go to school for
I’ve loved talking to you about all your new experiences at school. I remember the start of secondary school as an exciting voyage of discovery: new subjects to learn, new friends, new everything.
You’ve been much the same. It’s been fascinating to see the subjects that have captured your imagination. We had assumed you would be most interested in maths and sciences, but you seem to love English, languages and drama. Okay, your affinity with English was no surprise but even during the summer you were already studying European languages off your own bat. And I can see that drama is another form of self-expression that you’re exploring with enthusiasm.
It’s early days, of course, but it already appears you’re heading down a different road to the one both your mother and I travelled. That’s no bad thing. You’re finding your own preferences and working out what your passions are.
A few weeks ago I attended your first parents’ evening at your new school, which focussed on the pastoral rather than academic side of your development. As wonderful as it was to hear lots of positive comments from your form tutor, what pleased me even more was seeing the strong friendships you have already developed with a wide variety of classmates. I left that evening bursting with pride and knowing that your choice of school had been the right one.
Sorry seems to be the hardest word
You are so tall! You passed Grandma some time ago but you’re fast closing in on both your mum and Grandpa. I reckon you’ll be as tall as – if not taller than – me by the time you turn 14.
But it’s not just in stature where you’re now virtually our equal.
I’ve worried so much over the years about trying to be a good role model to you and your siblings. But we’re now fast approaching the tipping point where we have as much to learn from you as you do from us.
That’s quite a big adjustment. Well, it is for me, at least. I need to stop treating you like a child and recognise what you are becoming.
I will be the first to admit that it hasn’t always been the smoothest road for you and me over the past couple of years. There is a part of me that still longs for the nine-year-old you. It was easier then. But that Isaac is in the past and I would never want to stop you from growing up.
So I am sorry for all the times I have come down on you too hard. I’m sorry for not always giving you enough space to make your own decisions – and sometimes your own mistakes. I’m sorry if my expectations of you are sometimes unreasonable.
You are changing, and I need to change my approach with you. Increasingly you have the right – the need – to explore the world for yourself. It’s my challenge to find that balance between keeping you secure and trusting that we have instilled the right values in you to make good decisions.
It’s inevitable there will be the occasional misstep along the way. And that’s okay.
A good heart
And that’s my one big piece of advice to you as you enter your 13th year. I know what a perfectionist you are, and you are just as hard on yourself as your mum and I have ever been. Accept that you’re on a journey of discovery. Recognise that you can’t get everything right immediately or be the best at everything. And get used to making the odd stumble, dusting yourself off and starting again. It shouldn’t stop you trying your best – but you should never beat yourself up for not being perfect either.
I know you are fundamentally a smart young man with a good heart. And, as a very wise philosopher once said – or, at least, one of those 80s pop stars who I am always listening to that you roll your eyes at – a good heart these days is hard to find.
Happy birthday, Isaac.
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