It’s your birthday tomorrow, and I spent a little while today flicking through some of the things I’ve written to you over the years. Every now and then your father likes to remind me how fortunate we are that I was once such an avid archivist of your habits, and then I feel a little sad that I’ve not kept up my writing here, if only to produce a comprehensive record of your most fleeting characteristics.
I still unthinkingly refer to you as My Boo; sometimes you allow this, though just as often, you furrow your brow and say “I’m not a Boo,” because:
1. A baby, most often male, of a similar age to Hartley.
eg. “Will there be other Boos to play with at the party?”
You’re no longer a baby, by any definition, and even when you pretend, you approach the task as one who has never visited that sunken Atlantis – you unfocus your eyes (your gaze was locked and penetrating as an infant, but never mind), go slack in my arms, and make exaggerated gurgling noises that mock the very essence of your babyhood until I grow frustrated with the game and suggest we play Lego instead.
At nearly five years old, you are already a far more eloquent speaker than most adults. Words come easily to you, as do their context, and if I dither in my attempt to answer a question, or provide you with some information you’ve asked for, you come to my rescue brandishing the very syntax that eluded me.
You’ve taken the phonetic approach to literacy quite seriously, and during your first term of school, would try to spell something, anything, upon waking. The first words out of your mouth in the morning as you loosened the shackles of sleep wouldn’t be Morning, Mummy! as in the proceeding months, but an enigmatic Puh. AH. Ullll. Pal!
Your favourite thing to do at bedtime story is to point out words, or groups of words, and identify them as those I’ve just read, or to stop me mid-sentence and find a word at random to read out. When you were very sad last week, I promised you I’d read you a hundred stories, or as many as it would take to get you off to sleep, and you were so taken-aback by this proclamation that you immediately stopped crying and fled to collect your library.
Speaking of literacy, one thing you did this year that utterly shocked me was you texted your Daddy while I was in the shower one afternoon. You didn’t just text Daddy: you texted him your own name, spelled correctly. And that’s not all. Thereafter, you started texting both of us sentences strung together like one long word, which you’d deduce letter-by-letter as you phonetically sounded them out. These texts are perfectly legible, and perfectly you. It is a pleasure and an honour to receive a text from you when you’re with your Dad.
Your inner world is saturated with characters from your favourite programs, video games, and the comics your father shows enthusiasm for, whether you’re around or not. You’re Daddy’s number one fan these days and, not wishing to deprive me of first place, have designated him at Zero place, zero being “better than first, but only slightly better – The Best.” You and Daddy often interact like brothers who possess a genuine affection and mutual respect for one another, when you’re not squabbling about injuries, real or perceived. Unsurprisingly, your mannerisms and attitudes are nearly identical, and I sometimes feel left out when I’m in both your company. But then I collect you after school and you slowly shed the vestiges of that home and you are Mummy’s boy, curled into my side on the sofa and sucking the meat of your hand.
Oh darling, I could go on and on, but this is stolen time, and tomorrow you’ll be five years old. I still remember when you were sad about turning four, because you wanted to be your own age: “three and three-quarters.” You’re not as anxious about growing up as you once were, and looking back at all my letters to you, I can say with a small amount of confidence that I’m better able to let go of each year with enthusiasm for what’s to come. Whenever I think about the future, I feel a bit of trepidation, but I’m thankful every day that you’re indelibly in that picture.
Happy birthday, my growing boy. I love you number zero (the best).