Oscar Is Fifteen

Dearest Oscar, you are fifteen today.

As usual, despite birthdays coming around rather regularly, it takes me by surprise that time can be measured this way. It’s been quite the journey from the small, round bundle that got delivered into my arms on this day fifteen years ago, to the towering giant looming through the hallways of our house, stopping only occasionally to pat me on the head. You grow, I shrink. That seems to be the rule these days.

It’s been a hell of a year, boy. You’ve lost a lot this year and I’ve been sorely grieved to see the pain you’ve endured and continue to work through. My birthday wish for you this year is that we finally find that fabled magic wand to make it all better. Or that a ‘kiss it better’ really could resolve all that pain for you. In the absence of that I hope that we managed to take your mind off things for a few hours yesterday and set a marker and a reminder of what life can be again.

You told me a few weeks ago that you were ashamed that you were not ‘man’ enough to deal with things as quickly as other people seemed to. You said: ‘I’m fifteen now. I should be over behaving like a baby.’ I told you then what I’m going to write now, but I’m writing it down because I hope one day that you find this and it prompts you to re-remember and assess how you felt then.

A man, and I use this word advisedly, is someone who is alive to ALL his emotions and who is willing to sit with them, think about them and deal with them appropriately. Feelings are difficult because they don’t come in neat packages. They squiggle about. They bleed at the edges. They get caught up in other things. Sometimes we feel two opposite feelings about one thing at the same time and the conflict pulls us to the edges of what we think we can endure. Anyone who tells you that facing, owning and dealing with your feelings is not a manly thing to do, is doing you, and themselves a massive disservice.

A man is prepared to be hurt, to grieve, to sorrow, to own confusion and anger and articulate them. A man owns both the softness of themselves and their edges. A man is prepared to admit that things are too difficult rather than barrelling through and putting a brave face on things. A man is loving and kind and generous and understands that allowing that vulnerability to shine out from them doesn’t make them weak. Owning your vulnerability and being willing to show it and share it is one of the greatest things any human being can do, let alone a man.

A man is willing to care and show that in a multitude of ways. A man is someone who is strong and brave enough to ask for help when they can’t help themselves. A man is someone who is able to admit that they don’t have all the answers. A man is someone who knows that loving someone else is the greatest and most dangerous adventure they can possibly go on in their lifetime and that it risks everything, but the rewards are the greatest. Whether that’s the love for a partner or a friend. A man understands that love is not narrow and restrictive. It blooms, if you allow it to.

A man is what you have become this year. I know that none of us would have chosen this to be the way you shed the last of the boy in you, but sometimes fate dictates that our path will be harder than we would like, and it is how we rise to meet it that is the measure of who we are, and you have surpassed all our expectations on that front.

No test, no exam, no job or figure in your bank account will ever make me prouder of you than I am right now. The dignity with which you have faced adversity. The willingness you have shown to love others. The bravery of your decisions to keep moving forward and to work through everything life has thrown at you, makes me burst with pride when I think about it. You are the very best of us and I love you so much it physically hurts.

I know that you have felt so alone in recent weeks, but know that we are always here for you, no matter what. No matter what you think or say or do with your life, you are ours and we are yours and home is where we are together and you are always a part of that. We can always sit with you in the dark days as well as the light ones, and although we cannot take the pain away, we can bear witness and love you and help shoulder the burden in any way that you need.

I hope you manage to feel some joy on this day, because we felt it fifteen years ago and every day you have been in our lives since. You enrich our lives beyond measure. Thank you for choosing us to be your parents.

7 responses to “Oscar Is Fifteen

  1. elspeth liddell Cunningham

    Oh Katy – you have surpassed yourself yet again. Thank you

  2. Happy birthday Oscar. I hope you will look back on these beautiful words one day and remember how loved you are, and how far you have come. x

  3. Wise words, as always. Happy birthday Oscar!

  4. Unbelievably beautiful.🥰

  5. So beautiful – I love somebody completely broken inside – I cannot heal that despite wanting to everyday – all I can do is love and adore the in – out and around and thats the easy bit – the hard bit is supporting what I can’t fix but support and love you always . Always a shout away for you all . And the best thing anybody ever told me was ‘ it won’t always be this hard ‘ ❤

  6. Happy Belated Birthday, Oscar.

    I’m with your Mum in all she’s written. She’s right!

  7. Thank you your words are so inspiring and these have brought me to tears. Xx

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