My sweet, funny man-child: Tristan, today you are 14.
As I write this, you are busy sifting through books, papers and Lego sets to replace an older, smaller bookshelf with a larger one we filched from the curb last night. It’s a great metaphor for where you are in your life – trading in Captain Underpants and Geronimo Stilton books for a growing manga collection, giving up some little-boy toys to make room for teenager stuff. The best part, though, is that YOU are doing it, organizing your stuff to your preference, while I tap away up here on the computer.
Tristan, you continue to be creative, funny, clever and adventurous. You love to make things, in the digital world and in the tangible one. You are currently using Minecraft to create pixel art of your favourite manga characters from inspiration you found online. You’ve come a long way, and yet not so far at all, from your endless days at the table with crayons and paper.
Speaking of manga, it seems to be your new passion. From Sword Art Online to the row of manga books on your new bookshelf, you have a growing fascination with animé, manga and Japanese culture. You’ve watched so much animé on Crunchyroll this year that you’re starting to recognize some Japanese words, and your new favourite snack food is Pocky. You’ve also become interested in cosplay, and see no reason why you shouldn’t wear at least some parts of your Kirito costume to school occasionally. You continue to be disappointed that I won’t buy you the expensive thigh-high boots you covet to complete the look.
You still love to play Minecraft and the Wii with your brothers, and you watch way more YouTube than conventional TV. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw you choose the big screen over the smaller one of your various devices, although you do like to watch the Amazing Race and Masterchef with the family. You do more than just mindlessly watch videos on YouTube, though; I’ve been fascinated to hear you teaching yourself complex video game scores on the electric keyboard based on YouTube tutorials you find online.
You have a quirky, subversive and truly delightful sense of humour, and I adore your dry, droll delivery. You see no reason why you should follow the crowd or subject yourself to meaningless societal conventions. You have a keen sense of justice and are quick to call an outrage, but your temper itself is even-keeled. It’s often very difficult to tell what you are thinking, and you must be a mystery to others who know you less well than we do.
You are always up for an adventure, or a walk. One of my favourite memories of our soggy, grey vacation in PEI this year was the long, rambly, rain-soaked hike we took to explore the land-locked lighthouse and beach at St Peter’s Harbour. You still choose to leap, climb, slide and zig-zag rather than walk a straight line. Despite spending some time in physio for patello femoral syndrome in your knees, you continued to hone your skills as a runner this year. You participated in both the cross-country meet and track and field, where you competed in the pentathalon and won your heat in the 100m race.
Because you are a renaissance man, in addition to art and athletics you continue to do well in the academic world too. Your grades are solid across all your subjects, and you seem to have a natural affinity for math and science. You and I had an insightful chat not too long ago in which we discussed the grades you are able to achieve now without really trying, versus the potential you could achieve with a little bit more focus and attention to detail. You picked courses this week for your first year of high school, which led to poking around potential fields of study for university, and you are showing interest in computers and technology as a future path.
For your birthday this year, you chose the same laid-back party format you chose last year: to invite your friends over to spend a few hours hanging out, doing things that Tristan likes to do. In this case, that comprised Wii U, pizza, charades, hanging out, Magic the Gathering, and a rogue game of Settlers of Catan. The same old gang showed up, and their affection for you is obvious through their quirky, handmade cards (fine art, a short story, and one written in code with a key for decoding on the back of French homework) and gifts that show a surprising and heartwarming amount of thought and insight into your personality. You have chosen your friends well, and they are always welcome here.
Tristan, there is so much more I want to say about what makes you so delightfully YOU at 14: how you wear that infernal blanket around the house like a cape, how much Willie loves you, how you lean in for a hug that doesn’t actually involve your arms, how you stereotypically communicate in a teenager’s monosyllabic grunt, how you love to chop the vegetables for dinner so you can play with the big knife, how you carefully maintained a spreadsheet of your allowance so you could save for your own PS Vita, how much I love our inside jokes and daily routines and the simple pleasure of your company.
Happy birthday, my man-child! Know that your family loves you beyond measure.
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