Tag Archives: H-rex

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety two

Dear Henry,

At some point in the last couple of months, your face has changed. I noticed it in your back-to-school photo, and when I catch your face in repose in my rear-view mirror. Your face is thinner, older. You feel taller. You’ve just had a birthday, and now you are six.

In your head, of course, you’re much older than that. You are happiest of all when I treat you like a tiny adult, and one of the hardest things for you to understand is that it’s not always right for me to do that. But I give you as much autonomy as I can. What a funny thing you are: fiercely dignified, incurably perfectionist, dryly hilarious. You’ve never jumped through anyone’s hoops or softened your answers to be more socially acceptable. You hardly say a word in front of people you don’t know, so perhaps your blazing defiance, your fiery refusal to respect anyone before they’ve earned it, goes under the radar. It doesn’t here, where I watch you with astonishment, (often) frustration and not a little envy. Forgive me: sometimes I wish you’d conform. But that’s more about me than you, and you’d never take advice so patently ridiculous anyway.

There is proper delight here at six: the way you spend ages laboriously typing out text messages to family members, with carefully considered emojis; the way you hide books under your pillow and think I don’t know that you read them after lights-out; the instructional notes I find around the house (‘Please DO NOT use these until September’. ‘This way for Lego Club in Henry and Teddy’s room’). There are just a few words leftover from toddlerhood that you still mispronounce, and I hold them to me like old treasures: the Doctor fighting ‘the Garlicks’ in Doctor Who, eating ‘yer-sagne’ for dinner, going to ‘mathletics’ club at lunchtime.

I ordered you a cheese salad sandwich at school once, and you came home disgusted – disgusted – that it was ‘cheese, and cucumber, and CABBAGE, Mummy’. (‘Do you mean lettuce?’ ‘Oh, yes, probably’.)

You are still a fact-hoarder, especially now you can read. You’ve been telling me things, delightedly, about the Romans and the ‘Innocent Egyptians’ now you’ve discovered my stash of Horrible Histories. I hope I never forget your face when you’ve told me something you think is particularly unbelievable: wide-eyed, grinning, you give me a thumbs up and say ‘yes, TRUE!’ like you’ve personally fact-checked it. I mean, you might have. I wouldn’t rule it out.

You also love: your bike, ‘Mareao Karts’ (your spelling, Daddy’s old GameCube version), sausage pie, Tintin books, your brother (unconsciously, essentially) and your sister (openly, wholeheartedly), dinosaurs and Lego and space.

Yesterday we were listening to that song American Pie, and you laughed to yourself and said ‘Yeah, if you want to know how to dance real slow, ask a sloth’.

I worry about you more than either of your siblings. You are my first, of course, the fresh canvas that bears all my scribbled-out mistakes. You’re quiet and you care desperately and I worry that you don’t make things easy for yourself. And perhaps you don’t. Perhaps that doesn’t matter anyway, and you can already see what I can’t: that being defiantly yourself is all you can do, whatever anyone else thinks, whatever the pressures might be, whatever, whatever, whatever.

Good heavens, I love you for it. And for everything else.

Your mother.

One thousand, eight hundred and twenty-six

 

Dear Henry,

Today is your birthday, and you are five. You are asleep, finally, after an exciting day where you have made all the important decisions: bacon and waffles for breakfast, a trip to London to visit the ‘dinosaur museum’, hot dogs and milkshakes for lunch, episodes of Transformers Rescue Bots for an evening treat. At every pause in the day you have told me how happy you are. ‘Isn’t this the best day we’ve ever had?’ ‘Mummy, I’m having such a nice time’. ‘I wish we could do this day forever and ever!’ If I’d have known that this kind of loveliness would be the reward for year three, I’d have kept my chin up rather better than I did.

Because you are lovely, Hen, quite unexpectedly. I don’t mean that to sound like an insult – I mean that you are such a stubborn, inquisitive, emotional boy that you have often brushed your way through the world like a porcupine with all its quills out. Interested in everything, refusing to back down if you feel you’re in the right, never moving with the crowd for the sake of moving. Honestly, it can be (has been) frustrating having a child who is so resolutely not a people-pleaser. You are yourself, always. You mean everything sincerely. You will not perform. At school we had to find other motivations for you to try hard other than ‘your teacher will be pleased’, which left you unmoved, as much as you loved your teachers. We settled on something like ‘getting better at things makes me feel good’. These days I feel like this total, self-contained integrity will be one of your greatest strengths.

(I don’t want ’emotional’ to sound like an insult either: another one of your superpowers is that you can always articulate exactly what you’re feeling and sense what others are feeling too. That’s pretty rare, and very valuable.)

But then yes, in the past year – loveliness too. More calm, more logic. More space for your natural sense of humour to hold sway. You have let your brother keep one of your new birthday toys in his sticky fist all day, without complaint. The other day he fell over in the park, and I looked up to find you guiding him tenderly down the stairs towards me, so I could help him. (You also bicker A LOT; I mean, we’re not in Utopia here.) You are still obsessed with dinosaurs, bikes, books, sausage pie – but now you prefer showers to baths, hoodies to jumpers, cereal to porridge, and those vaguely hideous dinosaur trainers to basically everything else on the planet.

And you talk. Constantly, hungrily, melodramatically. You pick up words and facts from obscure places and bring them out later, much to our surprise. One day you appear in the doorway holding your arm and screeching ‘Teddy! You did that on real big purpose!’ Or when I’m trying to convince you to wear a winter hat: ‘I’ll never be with you if you force me to wear things. YOU FORCER’. The next day you’re refusing to go to bed until we’ve read the encyclopaedia page on the Industrial Revolution (‘Ohhh. I’ve been thinking about that.’ ‘You’ve been thinking about…the Industrial Revolution?’ ‘Yes! All the time!’) and correctly identifying, after an internal rummage, a duck-billed platypus in the Natural History Museum (‘How did you know that?’ *shrug* ‘Oh, I dust picked it up somewhere.’).

Anyway, on you go. Back to school in September, and no longer the baby. Buying a bike tomorrow with your birthday money, with no stabilisers. I exclaim twice a minute how big you are – this must get annoying – but really, Hen, I’m not sad about it. You child of my heart; you beloved, vulnerable, fiercely defiant boy. You are growing into yourself all the time. And you’re making, oh, such a wonderful job of it. I am so proud. I look at you sometimes and I can barely breathe for it.

Happy fifth, with much love.

Your mother.

Photo 19-08-2016, 6 14 30 pm

One thousand four hundred and sixty-one

SAM_2315

Dear Henry,

Today is your birthday, and you are four. We’ve just got you to bed after a long and thrilling day, and I sort of want to run back upstairs and get you up again. Being four is such a serious thing. Your birthday was the last milestone between you and school. As with most things, you are forging ahead while I keep looking back over my shoulder at how much I’ll miss.

You have such a distinct character, but you keep it under wraps. With most people you are reserved, serious, tongue-tied. With us, with people you trust after a decent half hour has elapsed, you’re funny, fast-talking, spirited and curious. You like to know how things work. You have an over-developed sense of fairness and correctness. You’re our little back-seat driver (‘Mummy, that’s too fast for this road’) and my walking to-do list (‘You said not to forget the pushchair!’). You like your own space, your own things. You feel things very deeply, and often explosively. We work hard on things like ‘I need to spend some time alone right now’, ‘I will share even though sharing is hard’, and ‘will you forgive me’. You’ve come so far this year, with all of it. I want you to be comfortable in your own skin, more than anything, but we are so alike and oh, my love, I still make so many mistakes with both of us.

(‘Aw, Teddy is so cute’, you said last month. ‘Look at his great big head.’)

You love Thomas the Tank Engine, Captain America, bikes, books, being first out of the bath, eating anything that’s not very good for you (sigh) and sleeping longer than your brother allows. We talk about Space and The Animal Kingdom and Vehicles and The Human Body. The last time you had a cold you were tickled pink when I told you about white blood cells. You are fun, did I mention that? You have always been great company. You try hard to be a good and kind brother. We are the best of allies whenever we’re not at loggerheads, which can be some of the day or most of it, depending on the day.

(‘I tell you what’, you told me encouragingly once, when I was sad about something. ‘When we get home, you can have a fried egg.’)

Your nursery teacher told me that you would play with anyone, until they started doing something you knew was wrong, and then you’d quietly walk away until they stopped. I was more proud of that than of anything.

(‘Daddy’s really hairy, like a spider’, you said after a bath. ‘Some of it is called a beard, and that’s very funny.’)

I could go on, trying and trying to get to the essence of you. But it’s no good. You are full of contradictions now, like the rest of us. I love you so fiercely it makes my ribs ache. For your prickly vulnerabilities even more than your blazing strengths. On the days when you’re a beast and I’m a boar I like to remind myself of that: that you are tied to me as I am tied to you, and that love for you goes to the very heart of me, has made me in a lot of ways, and that I will never, ever, ever stop.

Happy fourth, darling boy. I wish you the courage to grab hold of all the wonderful things that come your way this year, and to be your own lovely self while doing it. You never need to be anything else. Let’s smash it.

Much love,

Your mother.

SAM_2486

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