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To Calvin, on your eleventh birthday

Last Friday we were at a local park with our homeschooling friends. It’s a large park, mostly mown grass over low, rolling hills. The moms sit in the shade and visit, and you and I have an agreement that as long as you are with other kids from our group, you can go anywhere in the park. I trust you, and you have always been worthy of it. I hadn’t seen you in a while, and mentioned to another mom how great it was that I didn’t need to know exactly where you were anymore, but that I still would have liked to put eyes on you once in a while.

 “Isn’t that him right there?” she asked “Is he wearing a blue hat?”

And yes, there you were, not far away and completely in sight. I hadn’t seen you, because I was looking for a smaller child.

When does this growing occur? Surreptitiously over night? But it’s not that I didn’t know you had grown. I’ve watched your pants slowly rise up over you ankles through the year, and scrambled to find new shoes before the warm weather. I know you are growing, so when is it that the discord between my memories and reality set in? That I don’t know. I’ve always thought myself in touch with your maturing, and only occasionally felt nostalgic or scared. But as your level of independence has skyrocketed over the past year, while I won’t say I wasn’t ready, I will admit I wasn’t quite expecting it. 

This newfound independence has been a really wonderful thing. Your homeschool studies have been far more self-directed this year, your focus increasingly self-controlled. We have continued our march through the subjects, taking on some really challenging matter, and your curiosity and deep way of thinking continues to awe me. We tackled some literary “great books” this year, and your commentary on Moby Dick and All Quiet on the Western Front especially left me wowed. You are really getting it. You really understand. Your love of science and the natural world increases, and your respect for our one and only earth brings me great joy. Twentieth century history has you filled with a level of indignation fit for the pre-teen that you are, and the vicarious shame you feel for the ridiculous actors in your Spanish videos is right on point. Fun note: you can draw a map of the United States from memory, and are almost finished learning the same for Europe. But your favorite topic lately is math. It was geometry this year, and though the whole year wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, you are nearly acing the course, and have asked to continue with math through the summer so that you can move on to the next level sooner.

And just as you continue to thrive in your academic life, you are also moving along well in your arts life. You have always had a fondness for the arts. You inherited your father’s talent at the piano, if not always his practice integrity, and this year you graduated from lesson books into repertoire. It is lovely to hear you play on the days that you are not arguing about it. You are less bored with choir, I think, and this year that has really been a place for you to shine. You had two small solos that you really nailed earlier in the year, and just this week you auditioned for a difficult part and earned it with your ready ability and vibrant performance. You also took tap and ballet this year and we were delighted to see how much you learned in that time. Enough, as it turned out, to earn a chorus (dancing and singing) roll in the the Young People’s Theater production of Beauty and the Beast this spring. You amazed us on that stage, and behind it. Your integrity and maturity really showed.

Learning and performing aside, though, you are growing into a sensitive, kind, funny young man. Your friends and family enjoy you and your teachers appreciate you. Not every moment is perfect. You fight about studying things you find unimportant, and become frustrated to the point of tears sometimes at making mistakes or failing to understand something new, but far and wide your most defining trait is being easy going and happy. I know we are approaching the traditional age of malcontent, but you still find joy in so many things that I think we have some time yet. The other things you are doing are so age appropriate, though, that they bring back memories from our own childhoods. You are discovering music, developing what will probably be your life-long sound track, and if I remember correctly that is beginning of the creation of a true self. A unique other. That, and you are developing your own brand of humor, which we find hilariously, and often shockingly, witty. Your parents will take some credit for that, thank you.

What it all means is that you are really becoming yourself. You spend even more time with friends—as much as possible with the neighbors, and also time with our homeschooling families. You like to spend time alone. And even though you still sleep with your blanket and know all the names of your stuffed animals, that is really just like me all through…well, really continuing now, except maybe the blanket part. The truth is, you are growing up and becoming the individual that only you, regardless of your parents, will become all on your own. 

You are becoming you. And we couldn’t be more proud, and we couldn’t love you more.


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