Michael continues to be very much his own man. He is not influenced by fads or fashions or cowed by the expectations of society.
He is happiest at home. If left to his own devices, he might never leave the house. He does, however, enjoy the scouts. He has been going since February and hasn’t missed a night. Every Monday he dons his gear and runs into the hall with every appearance of enthusiasm. He is not one to go to something for the appearance of it, so, I think that we can take it that it is genuine enthusiasm. While there were some trips to the park during the summer, it has essentially been an indoor scouting experience – you don’t get to be den connect 4 champion by going on long hikes you know – and we felt that any further exploration of the great outdoors might put him off. However, a couple of weeks ago there was a weekend away and he said he wanted to go. His manner was more that of a martyr steeling himself to sacrifice than a child looking forward to a treat but he was adamant that he wanted to go.
I was in Cork for part of the weekend and all of my family expressed surprise to varying degrees that Michael had undertaken this venture even my father who is not fully up on Michael’s views on matters [he and Michael like to sit reading and peacefully ignoring each other – like parallel play]. I would love to say to you that it was a roaring success but it was not. Michael did not like being away from home and sleeping in a damp cabin; he did not like that his little companions were noisy and kept him awake at night; he did not like the night chasing exercise; he did not like the food; he particularly did not like the long hike which followed no breakfast [for him as all that was available was coco pops – yes, I know – and he refused to let them pass his lips – what kind of a child doesn’t like coco pops?] and where he was sustained by one gummy cola bottle. This was the longest he and Daniel had ever been apart and they fell into each other’s arms in a most affecting manner on Michael’s return on Sunday afternoon before Michael rushed into the kitchen to eat several bowls of cornflakes.
Speaking of food, he continues to be picky. He is getting slightly better but there are still many foods he will not eat. To be fair, he is much more inclined to try things than he used to be but he still doesn’t find a lot of things appetising, either sweet or savoury.
He is immensely skinny, but he seems to be healthy so I daresay it will work itself out. I am generally not this philosophical at the dinner table where I tend to be more despairing as yet again Michael has rice cakes for dinner. He makes his own cheesy shapes though.
He is a big believer in comfort and, if left to his own devices would wear the green t-shirt from the Christmas before last and his jeans and his grey gap hoodie every day.
He also feels the cold, so tends to wander around the house swathed in blankets used as shawls like a Victorian dowager. In June he was still wearing his waterproof, thick gloves to school every day. It was cold this summer but not that cold.
He loves to play on the computer. His preferred method for doing so is to ask, “Can Daniel play on the computer?” His concern for his brother is intended to melt our defences. Even though we know he is doing this and I have heard him tell Daniel about how effective this technique is for getting both of them access; the technique continues to be effective. He seems to like watching videos of teenage boys playing fantasy war games. He is currently really enjoying going into town on Saturdays and bonding with a number of other boys and men over dungeons and dragons type games. This is a very male dominated space; some gender balance would be nice. But, on the plus side, the older teenagers seem to be endlessly kind to ten year olds who share their interests.
He’s still a great reader and likes to sit up in his room reading his book and ignoring the commotion around him. The other evening we had some friends around. They have three children, the eldest of whom is a good friend of the Princess. While Daniel played with the younger two and the Princess played with her friend, Michael stayed in his bedroom reading. While the others ate cream cakes downstairs (of no interest to a boy who doesn’t eat coco pops), Michael stayed in his bedroom reading. While the eldest of the three children visiting put her hand through a pain of glass, screamed loudly and was taken off to A&E for stitches by her parents, Michael stayed in his bedroom reading. While the victim’s father (she’s fine now but all v dramatic at the time) came back to give us an update and rescue the two younger children; Michael stayed in his bedroom reading. It was a good book apparently.
Although this makes him sound anti-social, he is in fact both charming and obliging. He is also a peacemaker. He rarely provokes arguments. When we had the beatitudes at mass, I said to him “Blessed are the peacemakers, that’s you.” The reward is that they shall be called children of God which, as he pointed out, he has anyway, so it’s not like there is any extra benefit. I am not sure whether there is any direct benefit to him from his largely peaceful nature but the others don’t seem to fight with him at all as much as they do with each other so I assume that he regards this as positive.
He hated his teacher at school last year and this year, he loves his teacher who is in my view the best teacher in the school. His class have had her twice before, so they are particularly fortunate. I can’t say that she has made him love school but he is certainly much more keen and I think he does quite enjoy some aspects. He is not, however, a fan of formal schooling. I was extremely surprised to hear him say recently [in Irish!] that Irish is our language and it is important that we should be able to speak it. Of course, many, many people have been saying this to him for years but, until now, he has been entirely unconvinced by the merits of this argument. I await similar enthusiasm in relation to other subjects. Incidentally, he still understands French and can speak it a little bit but, some form of lessons might be needed at this point; a prospect which neither of us regards with any enthusiasm. He continues to be daring. We cycle to school once a week (when I have a half day and can collect him and his brother). This is increasingly less hair-raising as Michael becomes more traffic conscious and steady on his bike. However, he doesn’t like to let go of any speed he has gained (what cyclist does, I suppose) and he is inclined to not stop at the bottom of hills when, ideally, he should yield to oncoming traffic and not turn my hair white. This issue is, however, steadily improving. Over the summer, he had great fun on the dodgems. He needed to be accompanied by an adult. He was unable to persuade either of his parents to drive with him twice.
It is Michael’s job to sort the family’s socks on Saturday morning. He doesn’t like it but over time he has become fascinated by the odd socks and where they come from. Only last week he staged a daring raid on his sister’s sock drawer and got eight socks, four of which he was able to successfully match. If only all jobs could be as exciting; he is sick of unloading the dishwasher. Aren’t we all?
He can be stubborn. When his mind is made up, it is useless to argue, appeal or otherwise try to make him yield to your will. He is generally quite easy going which is just as well as if he had decided views about everything, it could be very tiring for all of us.
He and his brother are very close. He and Daniel share many interests and have a huge amount in common. Mostly he gets on really well with both his siblings and, indeed, his parents and other relatives.
He is a very easy, undemanding companion, happy to go with the suggestions of others as long as they do not involve leaving the house and even then, he tends to resign himself early to the imposition and try to stake out the parameters of the horror (how far do we have to drive? how long will the walk be? can we not go for a walk again ever after this?).
He was at home sick during the week and I found one of our regular babysitters to come and mind him. “How do you find being at home with C?” I asked him. “Fine,” he said reassuringly. “How do you find being at home with me?” I asked out of curiousity expecting him to say “fine” again but he said “Brilliant!” with genuine enthusiasm. It was the nicest thing anyone said to me all day. Happy birthday my brilliant boy.