I'm going to write my annual list of "Things I love about George right now," but first a word about his latest writing project, which was just published online here. It's called "Commander Cat" and it's about a kid who finds a secret portal to an online gaming world, enters it, and ends up becoming their hero. He actually came up with the story when he was in kindergarten, on the playground--at recess he used to assign roles to a bunch of other kids and they would act out various parts of the story. He finally wrote it all out (changing it a fair amount in the process) for an online creative writing workshop he just finished through Northwestern's CTD.
Well, the way life goes these days, I started this post, and now a few weeks have gone by and I haven't finished it. So now it's after George's birthday, but I'm still going to write my list/letter.
You are now eleven and are quite the young man. You have always been wise beyond your years, but you have really matured by leaps and bounds since becoming a big brother. I catch myself even more often than I used to forgetting that you're a kid! Which in some ways you don't mind, because you hate it when adults patronize kids by having reduced expectations of them.
Despite all the maturing, of course, you're still the same wonderful George you've always been.... I continue to be very much in awe of your creativity! It flows through you. I love acting as your scribe when it's flowing too fast for you to keep up with yourself. I sit with my laptop on the leather couch up in the man cave while you pace back and forth, and around the pool table, dictating to me. When you pause, I used to think something like "Oh no, he's out of ideas for what's going to happen next," but it makes me laugh to remember that now because you are *never* out of ideas. It is great fun, and it feels like a great privilege, to witness your creative process in action.
But it's not just all of your amazing ideas that have me in awe. It's your tremendous facility, ability, in expressing them. You have such flair. You can turn a phrase like nobody's business. You are very aware of the conventions and devices of the various genres that you write in, and employ them with ease--and talk about them critically when questioned about them. At 10 (now 11), you are one of the best writers I know. (I mean one of the best writers I know personally :-)
I love that I can talk to you about just about anything.
I love that you took a CTD course called "Computer Gaming Academy," where you learned how to design computer games using a certain program, and you haven't stopped designing games ever since, and have even helped several of your friends (and your cousin, I think) design some games.
I love being able to homeschool you, and I love exploring different models of learning/schooling with you. I love that I can discuss those models with you as we explore them! That you're interested in that sort of thing. And I love that because you are homeschooled (increasingly unschooled), you have plenty of time for all of your creative endeavors. I hope I'm doing right by you. Sometimes homeschooling feels like a huge responsibility. I rarely wonder if public school would be a better option for you, but I do sometimes wonder if I'm approaching homeschooling in the best way possible for you. I'm definitely making it up as I go along! In any case, I do love being on that journey with you.
I love watching "Good Luck, Charlie" with you, and laughing and laughing.
I love what a sophisticated consumer of popular culture you are. You said to me one morning recently, "Have you ever noticed how kids' cereal commercials are all the same?" and then you proceeded to give me a critique/analysis of the common elements of about 5 different cereal commercials. You did the same about family sitcoms, pointing out various stock characters that always seem to be in play. It's funny because this kind of literary/cultural analysis is in some sense what I do for a living, but I think it comes easier to you than it does to me!
You know that most of all I love your kindness. And your incredible consideration for other people's feelings in all kinds of circumstances.
I love how sweet you are with your baby brother. Like how when Bob and I are playing tennis, you'll talk to Ben and play with him in the car until he's bored and then you'll put him in his stroller and walk him around the park. I love how you make him laugh.
I love your exuberance toward the band, and my songs, and my singing. (You are really great for my self-confidence!) I love it when you walk around the house singing--one minute it will be a song Bob and I have written, and the next it will be something from your choir, and the next it might be a song you're currently learning on recorder. So it's not just that I love how supportive you are of my music, I also love your involvement with and appreciation of all kinds of music.
I love how unflinching you are in the face of peer pressure. You are your own person. You do not live your life wondering, worrying, what other people think. It's not that you don't care what others think. But you're not going to let that stop you from doing or liking something. And it's another reason why I'm glad I'm able to homeschool you--that you don't have to deal with all of that pressure to conform all day long. I know from when you were in public school that the pressure to conform (much of which came from your teacher!) didn't ever really make you conform, but it did cause a lot of friction and unpleasantness in your day. And I love how you are almost sort of baffled when people you know are affected by peer pressure.
I just took another break in writing this post because you came up to the man cave, where I've been, and we talked and talked for like an hour... about church(es), about peer pressure, about school, homeschooling, and unschooling, about what we're going to do this afternoon to get out of the house, besides chess club (I'm off from teaching this week, and Bob's going to be cleaning the house so we want to get out of his way!).... I love our conversations, and I know you do, too (I know 'cuz you just told me). And I love that you love the man cave. That might sound silly or weird but I do. You have a sort of relationship to this space and I think it's really cool. You love to come up here in the morning before anyone else is up, especially if it's raining--sometimes you'll bring your pillow and blanket and a book (ok, it's never just one book--it's always a whole stack), and you'll snuggle up under your blanket on the couch and listen to the rain on the roof while you read.... I love it.
I guess it's time to get on with my/our day, so I'll wrap this up. But happy birthday, George. It's a privilege and a pleasure being your mom. I can't wait to see what fun things this next year will bring, what great stories you'll write, what new passions will develop (speaking of which, I feel this letter would be incomplete without a mention of Pokemon and Lego Ninjago, two of your current passions!).... Thanks for being you. I love you.