Every year, I swear I won't do it.
Every year, I do it again.
Because it's all you want in the world.
Your mates, your party, at home.
I sigh with resignation but, secretly, it makes me proud.
You're such a gentle soul and ask for so little, it would be churlish to refuse you.
At least, this year, when it was time to sit down with a glass of wine with the last ones having just left, there wasn't a shower door hanging off to discover. Oh no. This year, you all stayed in the garden. We made sure of it.
This year, you all more or less looked after yourselves. Now that most of you are ten years old or so.
Although it comes as a relief, there's also a sense of loss. There was no hide and seek - the cause of the hinge-breaking calamity to contend with when you were nine. There was no Gangnam Style dancing like when you were eight, but, thankfully, there was still lots of loud music. You're still you.
It's funny how things develop - how you're drawn to the things you are and the other boys you connect with. Watching you today with some of them who you've known since you were three, there was a sense of satisfaction and love that only having a family can bring. The continuation is a comfort and joy. Observing you all grow into men, your innocence still pronounced, is part of growing up for me. I have never watched children grow up before, but I am witnessing you and your friends do just that. And it's happening so quickly.
You wanted what has become your usual - to go swimming and to eat pizza. The same people. The same place. The same thing. Only with the latest Now CD, a remote control helicopter and the Harry Potter books on audio, kindly gifted by your Godmother, together with the Alex Ryder ones and anything else suitable for your reading age of 14. You're amazing.
It's so simple what a child can ask for - they want each other now. Your brother tagged along, as always, never leaving your side and driving you mad with frustration. You worried about him when he was out of your sight, complained he was annoying you when he wasn't! Brotherly love. Sibling rivalry. Whatevs. We're right in it. We're in the nitty gritty of childhood. When things are complicated, hormonal and a on a whole new plane from the 'little' days.
You want your space or 'alone time' as it's called now. You are shunning all our favourite films and asking for those rated for older children. Toy Story has been traded for Transformers. You choose Tron Legacy over the Lego movie and Raiders of the Lost Ark instead of Rio. I am gutted, but we cuddle up nevertheless. It's making your little brother mature more quickly. I grab every possible moment I can before you're both gone.
Motherhood is more enjoyable than ever. It's all too exhausting in the early days. By the time we find our feet, you're moving on already! We have to hold on to our moments and savour them, forming a firm memory of them and hope we are making meaningful ones for you.
Now you are ten, you will be forming your own. What will you see when you look back? Will you feel the sunshine that we were blessed with today? Will you remember the discussion over which toppings to order? How you read the ingredients of the ice cream you chose for dessert to see if it was safe for your friend with a soy allergy and when you discovered it wasn't how you bought strawberries and cream for him too?
You caught me today - watching you, several times. I didn't try to be discreet. I want you to know I was there, doing exactly that, not missing this, the day you turned ten.
Happy birthday my darling boy,
Lots and lots of love,
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who voted this blog into the final five of the Best Writer category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards. I am enormously touched, grateful and bewildered, but overjoyed. When I gave up my job in the city because I kept losing my voice, who'd have thought it would turn up here?! Thank you, again. XXX