A birthday letter to my 14-year-old son

And so, Isaac, another year passes, each one a little faster than the one before. You turned 14 recently and, as is traditional, I’m going to reflect on your past year.

So, what do I see when I look at you today?

Well, for a start, I now have to look up at you. I’m neither particularly tall nor short for my generation – 177cm or 5’9½” – but, as you’re never slow to remind us, you are now the tallest member of our family, and by a distance. Even from a young age, we knew this was likely to happen; as a baby, you always tracked above the 90th percentile height-wise. But you finally crept past me in late spring and the height difference between us is now at least 5cm. And you positively tower over your poor Grandma – it’s like in Elf, watching Buddy next to all the other elves.

Growing up

In my birthday letter to you last year, I wrote, “you have made huge strides forging your own path towards the man you will become”. These past 12 months have seen a continuation of that journey.

Your height helps add to your air of maturity and authority, but it’s more than that. I see how well planned and sensible you are. You’re often the one who takes on the job of organising your friends to ensure things happen. You don’t know everything quite yet – yes, I know you think you do – but you’re level-headed enough to cope with most situations. That’s why we trust you to travel solo in to London to see friends. I’m not sure how many parents would be comfortable with that. But we are. You’ve demonstrated that you can work through unforeseen setbacks without panicking or needing help, and that leads to increased independence. Training wheels are no longer required.

It’s a brilliant trait that will benefit you long beyond your school years. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of about you. I’m convinced you’re one of these people who will take charge of life, rather than just letting it happen to you.

Sibling rivalry love

As much as your brother and sister wind you up at times – and, let’s be fair, you wind them up plenty too! – there’s a strong connection between you all. It’s a bond that my brother and I never developed until much later in life. One day, you will look back on your childhood years and realise how good the three of you were for each other. You will miss each other once you are living your own separate lives more than you think.

For now, as long as you remember to play the role of older sibling and not parent, all will be well. I know there are times when you want to be as far away from them as possible, but I think the three of you will always be close.


While many things have remained consistent or evolved steadily over the past year, some things have changed too. In moving up to year nine in a school that runs a three-year GCSE syllabus, you are now working towards your first public exams in 2½ years’ time.

You’ve definitely crossed a threshold in terms of your interests too. No longer a child, more a young man. That’s particularly evident when you have a choice between interacting with adults and with other children. I remember a recent social event where you actively chose to chat comfortably with grown-ups 30 years your senior rather than kids two or three years younger.

Your tastes in TV have changed notably too. Kids’ programmes are a thing of the past, and you’re more likely to watch something with your mum and me than with Toby and Kara. Similarly, your musical preferences are still informed by us to a small extent, but they are very much your choices now.

Not enough time

I’m hugely proud of you (and so is your mum). You’re smart, resourceful, caring and empathetic. It’s no wonder other people look to you as a rallying point. And it’s not just your peers who do this. Increasingly, I find I trust and rely on you as a (nearly) peer, not as a child. I value your opinion and perspective.

To bring this rambling train of thought to a close, I still find it mind-boggling to think that we welcomed you into the world 14 years ago. In my mind’s eye, I still think of you as your seven-year old self. And I struggle to reconcile the fact that in just 4½ years’ time, you might be away at university and no longer at home full-time.

There are only so many more years where I will be directly involved in your life on a daily basis. And there is so much I still want to share and experience with you. There will never be enough time but I really want to make the most of these remaining years with you. I hope you do too.



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