Dude, you are rocking eight years old.
I told you the other day that you were my favorite boy, and your first response was to lawyer me. “What about Papi?” I told you he’s not a boy. He’s a man. “What about when I grow up, and we’re both men?” Sorry, buddy. Then you’ll be my second favorite man, but you’ll always be my favorite son. “But someday you’ll have other sons when Ellie and Lucy get married.” Yep, probably. But I promised you no matter how awesome their husbands might be (and they will be, I do believe) that you would still be my favorite. You grinned, even while you were trying to think of another way to pick apart my words.
I can’t tell you how much I love it when you try to out-think me. It’s really fun to have conversations with people who don’t say what you expect. And I figure, if you can do that at eight, I’m going to be having awesome conversations for the rest of my life. Also some arguments that I won’t win. (But not anytime soon, buddy, not anytime soon. You aren’t so big yet that I can’t just win arguments with tickles if necessary.)
I remember being eight, so I know you will, too. I know you’ll remember that being with your friends was what you wanted every minute of every day. You’ll remember that you and Campbell were in the same class and rode the same bus and still wanted to play after school every day and all day every weekend. You’ll remember that sometimes you got very angry when I said you couldn’t. You’ll remember that you could disappear with the Gornik boys for hours and that your cousin Paddy liked to follow you around everywhere. It won’t be the slightest bit hard for you to remember because I suspect that you’ll still be doing the same thing with those same guys ten years from now (and maybe 20…or even 30…just ask your Papi). Friendship and loyalty. That’s totally where it’s at.
You’ll also remember how games were your life. Whether it’s Minecraft and Temple Run or Pokemon battles, whether it’s Scene-it and dominoes or croquet in the backyard, you want to play something competitive all the time. You’ll even play the My Little Pony game with your baby sister. Baseball is still your first love, but you’ll pick up games of any sport your friends will play: football, soccer, basketball, tennis. You and Cam invent games every second you are together, and in those times you are alone, you play them by yourself, just you and all the opponents in your head. Whenever I can’t find you, I know you’re in the back yard running imaginary bases or catching touchdowns from invisible quarterbacks. I’d be greatly surprised if this takes any remembering at all for you in ten years because you’ll still be competing every second you can then, too.
There’s no way you are EVER going to forget that eight-year-old you was hilarious. I mean, Will Smith: Comedy Star is pretty manic and annoying, but the stuff you say kills me. Catch you in the right mood and you can totally make my day. You crack your sisters up. (Sometimes. They are, after all, your sisters.) When you get that twinkle in your eyes, I can tell we’re in for something good. You won’t forget that. You’ll be busy cracking yourself up in ten more years, too, and I imagine you’ll be even better at by then.
And when you’re all grown up, you’ll remember how you strove to be wise. You’ll remember being baptized and knowing exactly what a big deal it was. You’ll remember listening to your Papi and trying to follow his example. You’ll remember reading the Bible as a group and putting it all together. You won’t have forgotten any of that, I hope, because you’ll still be walking that path. You’ll still be searching for wisdom with all of your considerable might.
You’re pretty good with patterns, so I’m sure you’ve seen the pattern here. You’re already an eight-year-old version of the man you’re going to be. You’ve got a lot to learn and a lot of growing to do, but your foot is on the path, your trajectory set. You’ll make course corrections over time. That’s right and good. But this you, this eight-year-old you, is already the beginning of what’s to come.
Why do you think I’m so happy that you’re rocking eight years old?
But listen up, eight-year-old. Papi and I are never going to be those parents who think our boy can do no wrong. We know you too well for that. Son, you have to trust me on this: it’s better that way. You want us to know that you are far from perfect. You want us to know that you make mistakes and are sometimes selfish and that you hate losing so much you’re sometimes willing to cheat. You want us to know that you don’t know everything and that not getting your own way makes you so mad you want to hurt someone. You want us to know that you are weak.
Because our knowing that means you don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to kill yourself for perfection. You don’t have to bluster about to cover up shame.
Because we know all the bad stuff. And you are still our favorite boy. We know the whole truth about you. And we still think you are rocking it.
Now and forever. You (the real, whole you) will always be my favorite son.