You’re nine now. That’s halfway to 18. We’re making the turn and heading for the back nine, the final years of your childhood. It doesn’t seem possible that the baby I held in my arms just moments ago is now the boy running down the basketball court, the soccer field, the baseball diamond and the tennis court. The boy playing songs from the radio on the piano. The boy reading Harry Potter on his own and constructing LEGO sets and playing Xbox and making us laugh.
This last year has been one of genuine surprise. You’ve mellowed (slightly) from the ball of energy you’ve always been. Little by little, we’ve seen the maturation happen. You’ve developed more empathy, more sympathy and more understanding that the world doesn’t actually revolve around you. You ask thoughtful questions, make interesting observations and genuinely want to know what makes things work.
I’ve always said I could see the wheels turning in the brain of yours, but now, more than ever, I can. You do long division in your head, you can think three moves ahead in chess, you’re actually starting to understand that changing one small thing can result in huge differences down the road. You like to help fix things and often ask to tag along when grandpa and daddy are working on home improvement projects.
You’re (mostly) helpful around the house and with your sisters. You are patient with Maeve, teaching her different things, playing less roughly and helping her when she struggles. But you’re also impatient with Emmie when you want to lord it over her that you’re bigger, faster, stronger and have learned more in school than she has. But you’re also willing to play video games with her, to explore with her, to put on nonsense performances and skits with her.
This was the year your sports fandom exploded. You wake up every morning and the first thing you do is check online for the results of the Blackhawks, the Bulls, the Cardinals or the Bears. You’ll watch sports on TV all day if we let you, often begging to stay up “just until the end of the game!” This year your true obsession was the Blackhawks and you couldn’t get enough of them. Our house is overrun with Hawks gear and you even asked Santa for tickets to a game for Christmas. Lucky for you, Santa came through with club-level seats and a parking pass. I think it was the best night of your life. But it’s not just watching, but playing, too. Your soccer game has really come up a level this last year as you get bigger and stronger, better coordinated as you grow into that tall frame. Your soccer coach said one of your best qualities is that you’re aggressive and you have endurance, two things I feel are actually handy life skills off the pitch as well. But you like baseball and basketball just as much as soccer and I think you really enjoy being part of a team, of having the shared camaraderie and experience of just joking around on the bench sometimes.
But you’re also still so attached to us. You want to hang out with us, want to be around us. You’ll still cuddle up with me on the couch when we’re watching TV or when we’re reading at night in your room before bed. You come out of school searching for my face, smiling when you lock eyes with me. A few more years and that won’t be the case, so I’m enjoying it while I can.
This is your last year in your current classroom, a place you’ve spent the last three years. I know you’re anxious about moving up next year, having a different teacher and different friends. But I think you’re ready. I think the challenge and the fresh start will be good for you. It will be scary and you’ll be nervous, no doubt, but you’ll do fine. All you third-graders know each other anyway. It’s just a different group of kids to spend the day with.
After watching how much you’ve changed and matured from eight to nine, I can’t wait to see what happens from nine to 10. And then I stop and think about the fact you’ll have completed the first decade of your life. And that’s just absolutely crazy. You grew two-and-a-half inches in six months last year and you’re up to my shoulder now. The day isn’t that far off when I’ll be looking up at you. But for now, you’re still my little boy. The one who made me a mom nine years ago. The one who brings a smile to my face and exasperation to my brain and love to my heart. I can’t wait to see what nine has in store for you, and for us.