Oliver turned 9 last Thursday and it’s been a long weekend of celebrations here; I’m actually completely shattered-in a good way-writing up this post.
Oliver opted to have a quiet night in on Thursday as opposed to clubbing all night (kidding) and shunned offers for YO! Sushi, Pizza Express or The Real Greek (his three faves) for Mama’s ribbon pasta with soy sauce and veggies (I know, odd!) and watching the soaps he’s recently gotten into after my Mum came to stay. Really.
That birthday evening pretty much sums up Oliver’s personality at 9 years old to be fair. An old man. Ha! He was born old, wiser than his years, and is more my best friend than my son, in all honesty. He’s a great one for advice. He seems to innately understand people, their motivations and how best to deal with sticky situations. Told you, he was born old.
Smart, emotionally mature (he was a rock to me throughout my acute throat and thyroid issues and big operation last year) and caring-as-can-be (I’ll never forget at age 2, he rushed to place a yogurt pot on my foot when I stubbed my toe in the supermarket), and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
The one hope I have is that he becomes less self-conscious and more carefree and fun-loving this year. He laughs and jokes with his family but his default is to be serious as you can see from the first photo. My Mum likes to remind me that I was exactly the same at his age, as she was before me. My Mum and him are two peas in a pod. Their bond, unbreakable. I do hope he lightens up a little earlier than I did and laughs at himself more, too. It’s wonderful to be serious and it will serve him well but the photo below at Hamley’s reminds me of a time he truly let himself go and had a lot of fun with it so I’m crossing fingers for more of those times in his ninth year.
…When I reflect on the day Oliver was born at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in London on a snowy morning, it’s a little bittersweet.
I’d only just turned 29 when he arrived on the morning of January the 10th 2010 after a tough pregnancy and even tougher birth (a traumatic emergency c-section) and I spent most of his first year shell-shocked and lacking in confidence. A maternal person, I was convinced first-time motherhood would come easily to me and I still mourn that mostly lost first year.
We’ve grown together though, he was the one who taught me to be a mum and I’ve evolved from a scared woman unsure of who she was, to a strong one who knows herself well, now.
I’ve talked candidly to him about how hard that period was at the start of his life (he was oblivious, of course and always happy), but after documenting the birth on my blog and book, I wanted him to know that he was always loved, however much the way he was born affected me. I feel honoured to have spoken about that time twice in the House of Commons and that my words have resonated and helped other women in a similar boat…
I’m grateful to have made peace with that time.
…I’m equally relieved by how close he and his younger brother, Alexander, 6, have become. They started off thick as thieves then jealousy kicked in from both their parts as they mostly fought over mine and my husband’s attention, but they’ve matured over the last 12 months, and seem to prefer one another’s company to ours. Now, it’s me who feels jealous!
…Oliver is one of those annoyingly (!) ‘good at everything’ types: he excels at creative writing and speed reads (we’ve come up with a children’s book idea together), he aces long division (not a clue who he gets his love of maths from), flourishes at 2D animation (a Christmas present), thrives at tennis, is often man of the match when it comes to football (he scored 9 goals at the last match he played representing his school) and loves to cook (we have Jamie Oliver to thank for that)…He’s a perfectionist like I was at his age (we’re working on that) but admittedly tends to smash most goals he puts his mind to.
He’s a doer.
He isn’t however, good at expressing his emotions yet, or losing, so we’ve been working on those things too and he’s starting to open up to me more, especially over dinner, in the car driving to or from school, or when I read to him and his brother at night, a tradition we’ve had forever (literally).
He’s also started to accept that it’s important to try his best rather than worrying about being the best and that failure is normal and formative.
Peter and I keep reminding him that we all learn most from our mistakes.
Oliver has always had a clear sense of right and wrong, a strong moral compass, and a voice that he’s unafraid to use. I remember a teacher in his former Reception class telling me he often behaved like a teacher, disciplining children when they did wrong and regularly taking it upon himself to steer his peers in the right direction. What startled me most was, that despite this, he was respected and well-liked by his classmates, and the same applies to his brother who hangs on his every word.
I witnessed Oliver taking charge at the end of his little birthday party on Saturday too, as he rounded up his troupe of friends instructing them to clear up the mess in his bedroom along with him, before they left.
They had a good time, promise (!), enjoying a birthday feast of pizza, dips, crudites and crisps before the pièce de résistance: the most ah-mazing gifted vegan birthday cake Oliver had chosen from Anges de Sucre‘s site (Vogue voted them, ‘the best cakes in London’ no less). Dreamy. He and the children gasped as I brought it out so they could sing to him.
I often observe my son, discovering so much of myself in him. A mini-me. We’re leaders rather than followers. Haters of injustice. Creatives. Worriers. Carers. Sensitive souls. Two of a kind.
Happy Birthday my sensible, bambi-eyed 9 year old.
Oliver, I love watching you grow, and I love growing with you.
Here are some more beautiful birthday cake pics. Thanks again Anges de Sucre!
(The kids picked off the biscuits by the time I cut through it, but I loved the vegan buttercream all the way through so had to share)!
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