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Dear Simon,

On the occasion of your eighth birthday,  I’d like to share a little anecdote. A few weeks ago,  I took a silly Internet quiz that promised to tell people who they were after answering 20 questions. When I took the quiz as myself, the answers were freakishly accurate about my age, hair color, and life circumstances. So I decided to take it as you. It described you as a person who is serious about work, serious about play, very competitive and driven, physically fit, and with a close family and circle of friends . . .

. . . who was 50. Seriously, only the references to male pattern baldness sounded off. The rest was spot-on.

At eight, you are nothing more and nothing less than a grown-up version of the person you have been for several years now, and that person was also an old soul. There’s a constancy to your character; only now the childish language has to go.

Let me explain. When you were very young, I described you as “ball loving”. For the past two years, I upgraded you to “sporty”. This year it is time to recognize your ability and hard work and get more serious: You are athletic. In the past year, your PE teacher, tennis coach, soccer coach, and swim teacher have all told me that you are “a natural athlete” or “a talented athlete”.

I have heard the “A” word so often from so many different sources that I no longer doubt it. I have no idea how far you can, will, or will even want to go in any given sport, but there’s no denying that your ability, passion, and work ethic have combined to make you something special on the sports fields and courts. You have trophied in both a tennis match and a 5K race, you will travel for a U-10 soccer tournament next month, and your dad and I can do nothing from now on but cheer you from the sidelines.

Similarly, I’m thinking you are not going to be “a numbers kid” for much longer. In the not-too-distant future, that word will have to flip to “mathematician”. You love to carry in addition, you’re working on borrowing in subtraction, you have your multiplication tables down and can divide just fine, too, and you love playing with negatives, factorials, square roots, and powers. It’s a giant game to you, and comes as naturally as kicking a soccer ball.

But sports and math aren’t the only ways you  play up. You’ve been playing up socially as well. Thanks to tennis and soccer, you have met some very nice boys who are 1-2 years older than you, and it has not escaped my notice that your rapport with them is effortless in a way your rapport with boys your own age isn’t always.

Having said that, if your soul is old, your heart remains as young as ever. I’ve guarded your youthful innocence as much as possible, and so far you haven’t put up any walls of remove or cynicism. You are as sensitive, open, and caring as ever, and your sweet nature is one of your best qualities. You still expect everyone to be kind and honest and to do their best, and you are still confused when someone doesn’t. It’s a lovely view of the world, and I want you to hold on to it for as long as possible.

Honestly, this is a hard letter to write. Even though only dear friends and family read this blog, I feel like all my kvelling over you teeters over the edge of obnoxiousness. It seems unseemly to praise your athletic exploits, academic abilities, and good nature. If I were reading this about another child, I’d be dubious.

But the truth is that your faults are so minor compared to your gifts, that I cannot believe my good fortune in having you. Yes, you can get a little whiny when you are tired or hungry. You are a picky eater. You still interrupt me too often. And you are way too worried about making a mistake. But I never meet a teacher, coach, or camp counselor without them praising you to the hilt. You are admired for your strengths and liked for your character. Your science teacher tells  me you are a role model, your second-grade teacher nominated you to be a student of the month (which you won), your tennis coach tells me you are a great little athlete, your soccer coach tells me you are a good boy and runs charity races with you, and your drumming teacher makes fun of your burgeoning mustache and leg hair. Well, four out of five ain’t too shabby!

You make me proud of you every day. If I’m being completely honest, sometimes I catch you being more thoughtful or generous than I am. You’ve reminded me to buy a present for the child not having a big birthday party, asked someone about a recent illness or injury when I forgot, admonished me for getting too angry at other drivers on the road, and otherwise set an example and inspired me to be a kinder, better person. It’s equal parts humbling and pride-inducing when you lead the way.

I don’t think it’s supposed to be that way, at least not yet. But it’s one of the countless ways, big and small alike, that your presence in my life has enriched it beyond my imagining. I have often said that having you was the best decision I ever made. So far, it’s also the best present I have ever given myself. It’s your birthday, Simon, but no gift I give you can come close to the one you have given me for eight years today.

You just keep on being you, and your Dad and I will keep on cheering you and loving you from the sidelines. Have a birthday as great as you are.



One Response to “Eight”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    Every word is true, no exaggerations. I know I’m the Bubbie an not supposed to see any faults in my grandchildren but I am not that kind of Bubbie and everyone has some faults. Simon has been a true day brightener. It reminds me of the time I told your Bubbie that there were days that you seemed to be the thing that made it worth getting up in the morning.

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