I’ve spent almost every day and night with you for five years and while I’ve still got a lot to learn I know you better than anyone else.
Your Mum and I brought you into the world with a big brother and we saw you fight for your place and then we gave you a little brother and saw you fight for your place a little harder. You’re right in the middle there mate and I worry sometimes that you might not be getting the message that we love you. But we love you so much.
Some people say you're a naughty kid but we know better. Yes, you can be a handful and a focus but we know where your challenging behaviors come from.
If you feel you’ve been ignored, or hurt, or misunderstood you’re more likely to act out and raise your voice and cause a scene than to withdraw or ask for help or a cuddle, even though that's what you really want. You don’t like to be seen to be embarrassed or confused or upset.
You’re always trying to show that you’re strong and in control (but shit man, so am I!) and that’s where the occasional ‘I don’t care’ and ‘I hate you’ come from. We know you’re personality and temperament are raw and that these difficult aspects about you will one day ripen into great strengths. We know that about you and we’re being patient.
And this is how our patience can be rewarded...
When I took you out to ride a bike without training wheels this year I expected you to have trouble, to get angry, to throw the bike and walk away. But you stayed out there for two hours that first day, falling over and starting again. I watched and cheered. You got one frustrating rotation of the peddles at a time for about an hour but you just kept going, around and around the oval. A thousand times you stopped and started again. Then you finally managed two rotations. By the end of the day you could pedal three times in a row. Three days later you were peddling the entire oval several times over. That is one of my most rewarding experiences. That was when I saw the benefit or your grit and saw the upside of how you fight to hold your ground. It’s the positive edge of your stubbornness, Lewy. You will achieve some great things because of it. (I'm proud of you!)
You can say hurtful things. You’ve told me you wanted to kill me. You’ve told me I’m stupid. I don’t like it but we deal with it, talk about it and leave it alone because I know it’s just passing by. I know this because until you find your middle ground you'll be a boy of extremes - I see your aggression and then I see how gentle you can be.
Since your younger brother Maki was born six weeks ago you’ve shown a quiet patience that has amazed us. You sit next to him in the car and calm him down. You hold him on the couch and put his dummy in over and over. You kiss his face and call him baby-boy and you’re the first to run to him when he’s crying. You’ve been so good to him.
I see your insecurities and how you protect yourself. You told us you hated girls and didn’t invite any to your birthday party this year but then a girl from kindergarten drew a picture for you and wrote ‘I love you’ on it and you’ve shown everyone and you’ve sat down to look at it a dozen times. ‘Where did she write I love you?’ you ask us, even though you already know. When we point it out to you again you drop your head, shy and proud. We know how good it makes you feel. It’s no surprise to us that she drew that picture for you. We know you’re so lovable.
And all of a sudden you'll say the most insightful things. I think about some of things you say for days and weeks and I want to record this one here for you because I can see where these thoughts are taking you mate and I can tell you that even if you read this ten or twenty or fifty years from now you will still recognize it. This kind of reflection will stay with you forever now...
You’re looking out of the window of a plane destined for Queensland as we pull away from the ground. Maki’s feeding with Mum and I’m sitting uncomfortably on the aisle seat.
Over the roar of the engines we hear you say, ‘When it's dark and you look outside and you see all the lights on the ground… it makes you think of sad things.’
Your Mum and I just look at each other wide-eyed but I feel for you. I know what you’re saying and I don’t want you to have this awareness at such a young age.
You turn around for just a moment and look at us and then you say, ‘Does it make you think of sad things when you look at the lights... cause they’re so far away?’
You see me nod and then you turn back to the window.
Later at the hotel I’m rubbing your back in the hotel bed and your eyes are opening and closing slowly and I’m thinking about what you said. I’m feeling like I need to rescue you from those thoughts – for another year or two at least – but I know I can’t.
‘When you were on the plane and you saw the lights… what sad things did you think about?’ I ask.
You wait a minute and then say, ‘Like when Archie and me used to play those games at our old house… and then we don’t play them anymore.’
‘You can still play them,’ I say.
‘We did,’ you say with a shrug. ‘But it’s not the same…’
I keep rubbing your back until you're breathing deeply, and I’m sleepy too, and I can see amazing experiences like the one we’ve just shared drawing away from us to become the glaring lights in the distance. We can’t experience them twice. They can’t be repeated or recreated – just recorded and remembered. And yes there is sadness in the passing of things but the joys are there as well. I want you to know that. The joys are what you can take away and carry with you forever.
I learnt something about you that day, Lewy. I saw you grow a little. And that’s why I stayed there for longer than usual after you fell asleep, to watch you breathing and to think about you.
Happy Birthday Lewy!
Mummy made another great birthday cake! A volcano, man! Just like you wanted!