Today you are seven. SEVEN. For some reason seven seems ever so much older than six. It sounds like a big kid age.
And you are a big kid now, no mistake about it. You have gained so much independence this past year, it’s both heartening and a little scary, because sometimes lurking behind your gap-toothed smile and gangly limbs I see the teenager you’ll be.
You still love baseball, and you still play imaginary games in the backyard sometimes, but more often you’re practicing; drilling yourself on your swing, on your throwing arm, on your catching. You understand the often-arcane rules better than I do. You came home from Little League last week bubbling over with a story about a tricky play at third base that involved a force-out, and I nodded and smiled but here’s a secret, little buddy – I had no idea what you were describing.
This year I spent a lot of time arguing with myself about how much is too much. Will this movie scare you, is that book too hard, are the kitchen knives too sharp or the water too deep. Your father lets you do more, there’s no question. And I’m learning from your bravery. Even if things terrify you – and they do, your imagination is too vivid to let you be fearless – you still forge ahead, sometimes with a pep talk first. I’ve watched you learn to dive, cook a quiche all by yourself, watch The Lord of the Rings and not cover your eyes. You confront everything head-on, at top speed, and it’s dizzying to watch… but I love your enthusiasm, even when sometimes by the end of the day I’m exhausted from trying to keep up.
You keep being the best big brother I’ve ever met. It’s now halfway through summer vacation and you play with Ron every day… and even more incredibly, you almost never fight. Role-playing. Video games. Baseball. Riding bikes. Dinky cars. Lego. Anything and everything, and while you sometimes yell “I just want to have some ALONE TIME!” it never last for more than a half hour and then you’re right back in there. Ron is having the best summer of his short life and it’s almost all thanks to you.
This year brought Baby G, and you love him too, although you aren’t sure how to relate to him yet. You treasure his smiles and giggles, but you hate it when he pulls your hair – and since you’ve got the longest hair of anyone in the house right now he just can’t help himself. To your credit, you never pull away or lash out; you stand with his chubby fingers wound through your hair and yell for help. I know some adults without that much patience.
Anything Dad does, you want to do, too. This year you got into Warhammer in a big way, although you’re still not quite ready for a real game. That hasn’t slowed you down, mind you; you just read the rulebook yourself, use Lego minifigs as stand-ins, and created your own simplified version that you taught to Ron.
You tried taek-won-do this year, too. You liked it, but the unstructured nature of the classes drove you nuts after a while. The games frustrated you because you wanted to be LEARNING! and getting your NEXT BELT!! and it was aimed at kids who need to have their learning disguised as play. You wanted none of that, thank you very much. School wasn’t as much fun for you this year, either, for much the same reason. You were bored a lot, and we all know you’re capable of more. This summer you discovered the library in a real way and now you’re running through the non-fiction section like a mad thing; your current obsession is Greek mythology, and you’ve taken to that so intently that I have heard you say “Oh my gods!” when impressed by something. “I believe in the Greek gods,” you say, all wide-eyed and serious. “Is there a church I can go to for that?”
You are a dramatic fellow and can be a challenge, because you’re like me. You’ve got a huge heart and an affectionate nature, because you’re like your dad. And you’re a sweet, fun, kind, polite, adventurous guy, because you’re you.
We all love you so very much.
Happy birthday, buddy.