Milo is six. So, on the wild off-chance that this will still be accessible when he’s old enough to care to read it here’s some things I wanted to say. Six of them.
- Milo, the picture is a lie. You’re not six in this shot; you’re five. But it shows something in you that I see even now, at six. You can be gentle, knowing, wry. That slight cross-eyed look you get sometimes (rarely now) reminds me of when you were a baby. The look in your eyes tells me how much you’ve taken in since then. This picture shows me you’re at our mercy (the haircut – my apologies) and that you have thoughts I’ll never, ever have access to…
I try not to lie to you, except when I tell you I’ve run out of money, that other kids like asparagus, and that there is only one channel that show children’s tv. I excuse myself the last one on the grounds of history since this is what I used to tell your brother. But aside from these infractions, number one is that you can trust me. You are surrounded by people who love you deeply, and whom you can trust without reservation.
- You’re strong. Your strength surprises me. Occasionally I think you fall apart and weep, hug, sulk, pout, because you overwhelm yourself. I think in some small part of your child mind you already know you are up for any challenge. I think I could ask much more of you than I do, and you would rise to it. But I’m not ready for that.
- You like control, and that’s okay. It’s frustrating now because you’re the youngest in the clan, and the least powerful (by any conventional understanding of that description anyway), but you like order, control, routine, predictability, pattern. These are all different things, I know, but the overriding sense I have is that you like to be in charge. And you’ve told me repeatedly that you don’t like surprises. This is good and bad – good if you steer your inclinations towards benevolent, useful leadership, bad if you think you ever actually have a right to lead anyone.
- You can choose to be happy. I tell you this often lately, because you default to angry and sullen. I understand this: your body is flooded with testosterone, you have a say in so few things, you’re pushed and pulled and bossed around, you’re rushed. But I worry that on a day when, say, you’ve played with a friend at our house, puffed yourself up by flaunting your wealth of stuff, been given an ice-cream by one parent, conned a treat from the other, been read to, indulged…you still find a reason to be sad and angry. The stuff doesn’t make you happy. A lesson for all of us really. So I watch for what does make you happy, and wonder how you can hold on to that slippery feeling. Not that I think you – or anyone – should be happy all the time. But there are moments when, for a split second, I see ease in your face and know you can choose to go either way. That the situation could be read one way or the other. Choose happy. Honestly, your life will find depth and breadth anyway. Choose to be happy as often as you can.
- You can draw. This is not to be underestimated. You and your brother are both spectacularly gifted drawers. Which means you’re looking. Keep drawing. It’s a language that will bond you to Liam. It’s an activity that can bring you joy without depending on others. It’s good for calming your mind. It will help you make sense of the world. You are very, very good at this.
- There are two things I tell you almost daily. They are: I love you no matter what, and the more you do things the better you get. The only exception to the second one is driving: watch any 60-year-old at a roundabout. Aside from that, the more you do things – reading, counting, bike riding, cooking, loving, choosing to be happy – the better you get.Happy birthday.