This year your growth has seemed more obvious; day by day, inch by inch, I’ve noticed you getting taller and taller. Watched the school trousers we bought at the start of reception, rise slowly to sit on and then above your ankles. Swapped them, in the spring term, for shorts; the thinnest, longest legs, stick like, poking out the bottom. I have observed you change through the seasons; vulnerable at the start of your first school year, like the bare branches on the trees in the park on our walk to school; exposed in stark relief. To blossoming in the spring; racing ahead and through the doors into the classroom with barely a backward glance. “This is good” the teaching assistant insisted, as she saw my forlorn face - on a morning that you barely said goodbye, so eager were you to get to the Lego table. And it is. It’s wonderful to see. School has been good for you. No more are you a shy boy. You are still softly spoken, yet now you are a boy that brims with confidence and makes friends easily.
You are still piecing together the world around you, joining the dots. You ask about the genealogy of our family tree a lot, be that people, or pets. You know by heart, all of my family pets since childhood, their names and the order in which they died. You like to remind us that no-one is older than Great Grandma (who is 91) and it heartens me to see the respect you attribute to her old age.
You struggle with understanding death, even though I have tried to lighten it’s prospect by telling you of the wonders of heaven. “ But I don’t think I want to go into space” you said. You tell me that there are ways to live forever. “If you eat through the concrete gravestone Mummy, you can come back to life.” These are subjects I don’t like you to dwell on and thankfully they occupy your mind less now. Of late, the concept of infinity is of far more interest, as is wondering when the tooth fairy might come. “ I don’t want to brush my teeth Mummy. Then they’ll fall out quicker and I’ll get a golden coin.” I am almost impressed by your strategy to get rich quick. So I tell you that the tooth fairy uses teeth like bricks, to make her fairy palace. “But she only likes really white, clean good ones” I say.
At your first parents evening, your teacher said how kind, well mannered and polite you are. I struggled to fight back the tears. I felt so proud of you. Barely four when you started school. You are good at remembering your P’s and Q’s, and sweet in the way you’ll often hang back in the cloakroom in the morning and wait to hold hands with a classmate to walk to the classroom door together.
You are inquisitive when it comes to words. Specific and analytical. You will always ask what a word means if you hear a word you haven’t heard before. Since starting school you’ll sometimes try and fathom out the logic behind things yourself.
“They’re nice sweets, Mummy”
“Yes, they’re Daddy’s favourites. They’re called wine gums”,
“Is that because if your gums are whining and you eat them, it will make them better?”
You were totally serious.
Drawings are now more legible, paintings clearer. Your picture was featured in the highlights of the school art exhibition brochure last week. You were so pleased. I was pleased for you, as pencil grip has been a challenge for you since starting school. You have proved yourself to be a trier. The other morning you wrote a sentence - looked down at it and smiled; “Look how lovely and small my letters are, Mummy”. It’s been a challenge, but you are getting there with your writing now. I’m proud of you.
I think you will always be a home boy. You say often; “ I love my family”. You genuinely do seem to love hanging out with your Dad, EB and I. You love your grandparents and your aunt and uncles too with a dedication that is heartwarming. The thought of leaving Mummy and Daddy is not something that you like. “ I don’t want to go to University”, “ I don’t want to get married. I want to stay with you, Mummy.” I reassure you, tell you not to worry, point out the people in our family that aren’t married, and didn’t go to university, and tell you that you can live with Mummy and Daddy for as long as you want. “Even when I’m one hundred?” you ask. And I answer as diplomatically as I possibly can.
Quite often, you will appear to be in your own world, thinking about something to yourself. Then suddenly you will ask a question; completely unrelated to anything we have been discussing . Like at 7am this morning, randomly; ‘How many fingers does a kangaroo have?' or ‘What’s the biggest number before infinity? or ‘What’s the difference between a mountain and a hill?’. I find the way your mind works fascinating. I’m learning new things every day through researching the answers to your questions. Thank goodness for Google.
You are still a fussy eater. They gave you a special star chart at school to try and encourage you to eat your lunch. You are a dough boy; would eat only bread if you could. Sweet, soft brioche is your favourite. You eat vegetables only under duress. You pretend you like them; “I do like carrots, Mummy", you’ll insist, eager to please, but then you eat only one or two - before dramatically pretending you feel sick. Thankfully, you haven’t yet discovered the ‘hidden vegetable‘ tactic. You don’t like ketchup or fizzy drinks, the only thing you drink is water. Mango is your favourite fruit, but only when it is not too ‘slimey’. It must be said, you have a very particular palette.
You like playing football and climbing trees. You like crafting; especially with Grandma and Grandpa; you’ll sit for hours with them at the kitchen table painting or making something. You love the beach and the woods in equal measure; outdoors is your favourite place to be. You are a Lego fanatic; changing your preferences almost daily. At Christmas, you were infatuated with Lego trains, but right now, it’s all about Lego Chima. I like our conversations about the power of chi.
You wear your heart on your sleeve and when you are happy joy shines from your face. Last week we took delivery of the new garden shed. Quickly, it became a shop, and you the shopkeeper. In a twist on Mr Ben, the shop became something different each time I visited; a reptile shop in South America, a cafe in France - I was very impressed with your offer of a ‘cafe au lait’, and then the best sweetie shop in the world - that sold sweets as big as bananas. Later as we sat on the garden bench, you reached up and hugged me. “This is the best day ever” you beamed, “I want to spend the rest of my life playing shop keepers with you”. You do love imaginative games. Although it must be said, that nothing makes you happier than role playing whilst wearing a Lycra muscle suit. Spiderman, Batman, Hulk, Iron man, Captain America, Ninja Turtles - we have them all.
You love being a brother. You love EB to bits. For the most part, you are kind and loving to him. It surprises me, but you like to wear the same clothes as him. You like to read him stories, clapping him when he spots the mouse hiding on each page of his book. He revels in the moment, and the attention from you. Watching the way you interact with him, and the love in his eyes for you, is amazing. You are his hero. He says your name hundreds of times a day when you’re at school and can’t wait for 3pm when we come to collect you.
Your hero, however, is your father. The two of you have an impenetrable bond. He is the brightest star in your universe and loves you with a passion so strong it has surprised me. He takes you swimming to the pool with the big slides, has taught you patiently how to ride your bike without your stabilisers, how to climb trees in the park, plays fun, imaginary games with you, makes you pancakes for breakfast and tells you he loves you often. On the nights when he isn’t home from work before your bedtime, you beg me; “Please send Daddy up when he gets home.” Your bond is wonderful.
As testosterone starts it’s upward trajectory in your young body, there are times when I feel that you need me less now. When I have felt you pull against the invisible chord between us; stretching it further and further, as you become more independent. After four years at home with you, watching you make your first ventures away from the mothership has not been easy, but you have proved yourself a strong, brave and sensible boy. I cherish the times we spend together alone, reading your school book on the bench in the garden, the stories before bedtime, and snuggling down in your bunk. The way you whisper to me “Let’s do that sleepy thing. Will you sleep in my bed all night long?”. The way you always say; "Love you", as I leave you for the night.
Dear Pip. I could not have wished for a more lovely son. I feel so blessed to have you. Happy 5th Birthday. xxx