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A Letter to my Son on his 11th birthday

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

My Dear,

Reading the letters I’ve been writing every year since you were three years old, I realised that they reflect not only how you’ve grown, but also how I have. When you were born, I became a mother, and I’ve been trying to figure out that role ever since. I’ve been learning along with you how the world works and how to be in it as best we can.

This year is the year of the secondary schools. It feels like in another universe, just a year ago, we took you to scout schools so that you can figure out what you want to aim for. Of course, you chose the one that’s the most difficult to get into as your first choice. We have backup plans, but given how hard you’re working I’m sure you can go to whichever one you’d like.

We won’t know for years how the pandemic will have changed the perceptions and experiences of your generation. As someone who lived through a war as a child, what I can offer is this: it won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. We tend to underestimate our resilience until it is tested, and this latest test showed me that you are as dependable as ever, trying to find the positive side of everything, even a lockdown.

You started walking on your own to school (with your sister now), and I find that I miss our talks. Whenever we do have a chance, we talk about wars and peace, about racism and antisemitism, about who gets to write the history books you bring home from school. We also talk (ok, mostly you talk) about your latest forays on Fortnite, which you started playing with friends.

Speaking of friends, some old friendships melted away, and you have forged new ones. That’s ok. You and your friends are learning what it means to be a friend, and I like your insights into the reciprocity of friendship. Still, three 10-year-old boys having a burping contest at the dinner table can be a bit much even for me. I cherish these moments when you show me you can be a child still. I try to be the cool parent and leave you to it, even if I can’t help but reminding you and your friends that those contests are best carried out when no adults are in the room.

It’s been a weird year, but you made the best of it. For next year I wish for you to learn to be less hard on yourself. When you get 95% of the questions correctly, you tend to focus on the three questions you missed. We talk about it, but nothing me or your dad say can convince you that you are amazing. I wish you were able to see just how brilliant you are.

Love you always,



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