At Mo’s new school, they celebrate each child’s birthday with a “birthday walk,” which is a little ritual involving songs and stories that pay tribute to each year the child’s been around. Mo’s was last week, and his teacher, Tracey, asked Moses to lay out strips of cardboard naming the months of the year in a circle around a yellow candle, representing the sun, and to grab the class’s model of earth, which he held onto. She then started the ceremony by asking Mo’s birth date, and then saying, “On the 28th of August, 2010, a little baby boy was born, and his name was…” and then Moses said his full name. Then he walked around the candle a couple of times while the class sang a song about the earth going around the sun, and Tracey asked him what he was like at age one (I had to help a bit with that one and the next), and then he repeated the walking and reporting for all his years until he reached seven and we all sang Happy Birthday to him. I found it beautiful, and I was touched by the interest and respect the class showed Mo, who’d only been among them for five-or-so weeks at that point (the whole thing made me teary, of course).
It was fun reflecting on Moses at each age from newborn to now. While watching family videos recently, I was amazed to see how little (and how much) he’s changed over these years, especially since he’s been able to talk. He still says “DAD!” in exactly the same way he did at three years old, when noticing that Alan’s attention’s drifted. His intonation still has the same quirks, although he pronounces his words better with every passing year. He still makes the same silly faces whenever I point a camera at him. He still sucks his fingers when he’s sick or tired.
I can’t believe seven years have now passed since this boy came along and turned me into a mother.
This year has included encounters with significantly sad life events – his great-grandfather died in January, and he started at a new school in July – but he’s coped with far more maturity and resilience than I’d expected after the bumpiness of previous years. He’s become more rational and accepting of the way things are, although he’s still a raging pessimist and master whinger (he reminds me so much of me). There were times when he was four (and five. And six), when I was sure there was no way this demon-child could turn into the kind and considerate person I’d been hoping to raise, but these days I’m feeling waaaaay more optimistic about the chances that I’ll enjoy hanging out with him after he leaves home. This year was Hazel’s turn for a birthday party, and he happily helped with preparation and present-opening without a single mention of how much it sucked that he’d received nothing. He’s growing up.
(When Moses was only five days old, my grandad called up to wish Alan and me a happy third wedding anniversary. I was cranky during that conversation; I’d just laid down for a much-needed nap and had completely forgotten the date, and Grandad was keen to chat and offer bizarre tips about parenting and breastfeeding that I completely disagreed with. At the time I wished I’d remembered to turn my phone to silent. Now, Alan and I are days away from celebrating 10 years of marriage, and Grandad is gone; I’d love to be able to have one more conversation with him, even if it meant rolling my eyes repeatedly at unwanted advice.)
Moses was devastated to leave his friends at his old school. As I announced our decision to move in the weeks leading up to the end of term, I was told by a few different parents that their child would be sad to hear that news, as Mo was their favourite friend at school. At the end of his last day, he shook the teacher’s hand, as he did every afternoon, and was about to walk to me when a boy ran up, calling “BYE, MOSES!”, and pulled him into a hug. Another friend then appeared and wrapped his arms around Mo and his backpack, then two more boys joined in so that Moses was being squeezed by friends from every angle. He looked at me and giggled a little bit, and then, as soon as they’d let him go and he’d waved a final time, he burst into tears and bawled the whole way home, then took himself to his room and cried some more (thinking about that afternoon still breaks my heart). He’s still settling in to the new school, but I’ve spied on him a couple of times and seen him laughing with new buddies. He makes friends easily.
He’s also influenced by his friends. At his old school, his good friend Rom was a vegetarian and Moses was so taken by Rom’s passion for it that he ended up converting. He spent months going meat-free, but since moving has become lax about his meat intake. He still calls himself a vegetarian, apparently not realising that you’re not actually one if you enjoy eating minced beef and bacon. He nearly converted to Islam, too, when he realised that a couple of his friends had received gifts for Eid; that afternoon he asked who he had to believe in to get presents like Ayman had, and I told him the deity in question was Allah. “Okay then,” he announced, “I believe in Allah. Now buy me Lego.”
He’s thoughtful about how he’s influenced, though; earlier in the year I saw him playing with a group of kids who he obviously wanted to impress, and they each jumped off a rock into some water. I was standing nearby, and asked him if he wanted me to hold his t-shirt, assuming he’d follow them, but he told me he didn’t really want to jump so he’d decided not to. We’ve made a big deal about listening to our bodies, and doing what feels right; moments like this make me incredibly proud of the boy he is, and the man he’ll become.
Mo’s lost four teeth since January (eight all up since the end of 2015, including a supernumerary), which means most of this year has been spent with a gap somewhere in his mouth. Mo still loves making people laugh, he still processes things carefully, he still loves spending time with Henry, he still loves Lego (I’m pretty sure he’s received Lego for every birthday and Christmas since he was four years old). He’s happiest when building Lego or exploring outside. He loves climbing trees and looking for shells.
He played soccer again this year, although didn’t seem as keen on the game as last year. He’s also discovered chess in recent months; he found the board among our games and asked Alan to teach him. He’s pretty good! He often moves too quickly, not thinking enough about strategies, but, despite being told by the chess club coordinator that he should expect to lose his first 100 games there, he beat a year six boy the other day and managed to finish his second game with a draw. At the moment Mo and I are fairly evenly matched, although with his level of enthusiasm for improving far outweighing mine, it won’t be long before he wins every game against me.
He loves Harry Potter (also thanks to Rom), and was desperate to dress up as Harry for book week. He’s up to the fourth book, which is the first we’ve read to him (Stephen Fry’s read the last three on CD [thanks, Stephen!]), and he’s seen two of the movies so far. His reading has significantly improved this year, and he’s started mastering cursive writing and his three times tables. His favourite subject at school is maths. His favourite songs are Blackbird by The Beatles and NO CD by Loyle Carner. For his birthday dinner he’s requested fish and chips.
Moses, my beautiful boy: you are a delight. I love spending time with just the two of us. (I’ve focused on the positives in this post, but I think we do the negatives pretty well, too; we talk together about the hard things, we yell at each other a lot, we say sorry to each other a lot.)
I love you, buddy. Happy birthday!