Tomorrow is Spencer's 11th birthday.
For some reason the cusp of 11 feels more monumental than the eve of 10. I think this is a little weird... we've been in double digits for 364 days. What's so special about 11?
I think for me it's a combination of things. One is the fact that he's in 5th grade now. I distinctly remember 5th grade. It was a big deal. Maybe Spencer's 5th grade experience isn't quite as dramatic as mine was. He's still in the elementary school - and didn't have to move "up to the top of the hill" to a new school. But still... 5th grade is when I started to take note of boys, made some deep and lasting friendships and really started to figure out who I was and what I was interested in. I can't help but assume that Spencer will have some of these very same things happen to him this year.
And as thrilled as I am to watch, I am equally horrified by the prospect that he's growing up - very quickly.
The things that Spence is doing, both in school and out of school, these days fill me with pride. He's a good kid. Not a perfect kid, but he's solid - in just about every way I can imagine.
Spencer has always been bright and what I've figured out with this first born of ours is that the farther he moves into his academic career, the more distance he's putting between his abilities and those of some of the others in his peer group. I credit the programs that are offered by his school. And I consider him very lucky to be able to participate. He's been involved with the gifted program, Horizons, for several years now. And some of the things they do are just SO cool. Last night he was spouting off a bunch of geographical facts that I sure didn't know. He said he's getting interested in geography because that's what Horizons is focused on right now. Pretty neat that they are able to tap into interests that would likely otherwise go unfound. A new thing for him this year is advanced content classes. Spence is doing AC for both math and ELA. What that means is that he's given opportunities to push himself along with a bunch of other similarly abled students. It's tough, but also (I believe) more interesting for him than a more regularly paced class. The teachers have more time to do fun and interesting things because they rarely need to cover new information more than once. These classes are doing things like individual research on the Civil War and following a Fantasy Football team. Schoolwork is integrated with homework and activities all kind of bleed together. I think it's like the 5th grade version of Kindergarten - where the kids are learning and don't even realize it because they are having so much fun.
The other major time commitment (which you are all painfully aware of from reading every week) that Bovy has tackled, literally, is sports. This season it's football. In the spring it will be lacrosse. I can't tell you how much I love the fact that the boys are involved in sports. It's not always easy, but the lessons they are learning are so important. Teamwork. Practice. Hard work. How to handle victory - and defeat. Rejection and Disappointment. Pride without being conceited. Yes, I'm sure we could figure out another way to get some of these fundamentals. Maybe scouts or other academic teams or some other hobby, but for us, sports is a valuable learning tool. Watching Spencer play is something that could be very frustrating. He's not a super star. He will likely never be a super star. He isn't the fastest. He's no longer the biggest. He isn't, yet, willing to put in the extra time needed to raise to the top of the proverbial batting order. But you know what, despite all of that he NEVER gives up. And that is maybe the most important life-lesson I could hope for him to learn. I like this story... at the end of every practice the football team runs. I'm not talking about a lap... they run sprints - and a LOT of them. Spencer isn't a runner. He hates running. So when they start the first sprint, he is almost always last to finish. Then they go again. And again. And again. And sure enough, each time they run Spencer finishes ahead of another boy. By the end of their sprints there are usually 4 or 5 boys who are finishing behind him. He's not fast, but he is steady. And he never gives up. I'm pretty sure that lesson will serve him well regardless of the tasks he tackles over the course of his life.
The final piece of the Spencer puzzle is the time he spends at home. As our oldest, he has had to teach Bob and I how to parent. It's pretty hard to imagine an easier introduction for us. He's not a troublemaker. He listens. He hates to break rules. He likes to talk back, but rarely rebels. He has paved the way for his brothers in just about every way possible. Spencer has always been a fantastic big brother. I really couldn't ask for anything more from him in this role. He's a playmate for Quinn. He's kind and gentle with Zane and Beckett. He's still willing to roll around on the ground wrestling and playing. He has also stepped, willingly, into the role of protector. We talk about this often. I want him (actually all the boys) to know that we expect him to protect anything smaller than himself. That means he needs to look out for his little brothers, the dogs, the younger kids on the bus, etc. Someday I expect them to be protective of the other females in their lives. Spencer is growing into this role beautifully. I can sometimes catch glimpses of the man he's going to be (the husband, the father, the leader) and my heart just about bursts.
As much as I'd like to clasp my hands over my eyes and avoid the blatant truth that my oldest baby is growing up, I will resist. I will watch with wide eyes. I will try to guide, while staying out of the way as much as possible. I will thrill at his successes and cringe at his defeats. I will strive to always be supportive and help to guide Spencer to be the very best man he can be. And I really feel like this year - this 11th year - is going to be GREAT!
Tomorrow we are letting Spencer stay home, as we usually do for birthdays, and we are going to enjoy a beautiful day in the North Georgia Mountains. We are going on a North Georgia Canopy tour. Bob and Spencer and I will be going zip lining and rappelling and sky hiking. I'm so excited to spend a day like that with him! http://www.northgeorgiacanopytours.com/
And I can't end without mentioning that Sunday is Zane's birthday too! I will save my Zane birthday collage for next week. He's so excited to be turning 4. We are taking cupcakes for his friends at school and having a little family birthday celebration for both boys on Sunday. Fun!