1. Outwardly, he has never resembled me in any way, so I often end up responding to comments of such nature with, “Would you like to see the scar that shows he came from me?” One day, I’m sure I’ll stumble upon someone who will take me up on that offer; however, given my advancing age, perhaps the likelihood of that decreases with each turn of the calendar page.
2. He is mine, of course, and he has always been attached to me. Unlike the fickle nature of his sister or brother, both of whom have alternated between which parent they cling to, my eldest has always clung to me.
3. He adores his father, and believes his father is all-knowing, especially in all things science and war. He aches for his father to watch him play war video games, and one of his special privileges is to be able to sit with his father until 9:15 p.m. or so, watching the Discovery Science Channel. This happens while I’m making sure the other two are sound asleep. If I’m not paying attention, his dad and he will push the envelope, staying up until 9:30 p.m.
4. He is a perfectionist. He does not believe he is in school to learn. He believes he is in school to show the teacher that he already knows everything. To that end, for example, he does not like to show that extra pages are used to work out math problems. And he struggles over wording something exactly right so he may beam under the rays of a teacher’s approval.
5. For three weeks, starting when he was about six weeks old, he was colicky. And we danced to the music of Bruce Springsteen for four hours every night.
6. He’s a hell of a guitarist, but he’s so unbelievably shy that he won’t perform in public. And what does “public” mean to this lad? Anyone other than himself.
7. The excruciating shyness he has displayed for several years is a puzzle to me. I don’t understand what triggered it, but it is full blown. He wants to blend in so badly. He doesn’t want anyone to notice him. At recess, he will stand on the sidelines, watching, and the sight of him standing off, all alone, sticks with me and causes my heart to ache forevermore.
8. He is eager to please everyone: his teachers, his friends, his coaches, his parents. He beats himself up over the slightest mistake. It is impossible to be too hard on him because he is always so hard on himself.
9. We have a nightly ritual, with me coming to sit on his bed in the dark, chatting for several minutes. It is our time alone. It is in these brief moments that he shares secrets willingly. I try to forget my tiredness and treasure this time and the nightly good-night, sweet dreams, I love you, kiss exchange that we perform.
10. I know that he will outgrow me, that he will spread his wings, that he will test boundaries, that he will feel he hates me for my interference and for the inept guidance I will try to give as he wrestles through his teenage years and young adulthood. I will mourn this boy who turns 11 today, just as I have mourned the baby, the toddler, the preschooler, the kindergartener. And I will remember to celebrate who he is in the moment. Happy Birthday, Eldest. It’s been a wonderful 11 years.