Daniel was 16 on September 27. As usual, the birthday post is late.
He is like a grown up. Regular shaving and, like a lot of young men, regular conditioning training. He is, by quite a distance, the fittest, strongest and most toned member of the family. He towers over his mother.
Of course the non-stop bicycle outings over the course of the pandemic have had an influence as well.
He had a good sporting year, he thought that it was to be his last year with the 2005 boys in GAA and he was quite sad. However, the county board in its wisdom had put off moving this age cohort on to minor games until next year. I recently watched him play a hurling game and he continues to give it his all at considerable risk to life and limb. My only source of comfort, talking to other parents on the side line, was that he never got into rugby. He wanted to but there are only so many hours in the day and as they don’t play it at school, it would have been a huge commitment.
He still loves basketball but his friend who he played with after school has moved to another school and he is somewhat bereft.
He’s been having a tough time in school. Two good friends of his left after transition year and he’s feeling quite lost but things have been getting better. Covid hasn’t helped. I think he found the time out of school much more difficult than his brother or his sister and he was really a bit lost and lonely at home.
Due to Covid, he has missed out on a lot of standard teenage experiences and is thrown back on his family for socialisation rather more than he would like.
He is very musical and has a fantastic ear. He does brilliant imitations but like his father (and unlike his mother, brother and sister) he doesn’t want to be the centre of attention and really has to be persuaded to demonstrate his quite remarkable skills in this regard. At dinner one evening, I asked him to imitate me and it was uncanny.
He still enjoys playing this card game “Magic: The Gathering”. My sister’s partner is a keen player and he and both boys love playing together. I shudder to think of the money that has been spent on decks. But on the other hand, money has been spent on plenty of other things that never get played with so, a win?
He remains a big FIFA fan having moved on from managing Arsenal to Fenerbahçe ( a Turkish team) and more recently, Hanover. At the parent-teacher meeting the German teacher said his accent was amazing. In part this is due to his excellent ear but in part because he does his Hanover post-match interviews in German. You have to love those levels of dedication.
He’s academic and does well at school. He is dutifully coaching one of his peers through algebra. I know, because I heard him downstairs when the Wifi wasn’t working upstairs. The school is small and subject choice is limited. Aside from English, Irish and Maths which are compulsory, he ended up doing Physics (which he really wanted to do), German, Biology and Home Economics. He is a bit of a star in the Physics class as they are doing, much more slowly, things he did at great speed last year in his course outside school. There are only four of them so I think there’s quite a nice atmosphere. I was astonished at the parent teacher meeting when the Biology teacher said he was amazing at Biology. He never speaks about it and doesn’t seem remotely interested.
He loves Home Ec though and it is delightfully practical. His teacher went on mat leave and the school couldn’t find a replacement. Home Ec teachers are trained in one place in Ireland and not very many of them. I always think they are particularly good as they came out of school and they wanted to be a Home Ec teacher and focused on that. A lot of other teachers did a BA and drifted into teaching. The old cliché is primary teachers teach children and secondary teachers teach subjects and while it isn’t always true there is some truth in it. Anyway, I digress. The upshot is that he has to do Home Ec after school two days a week which is a bit of a drag but he is really enjoying the classes so swings and roundabouts.
He is inclined to put homework off until the last minute and then have a slight melt down because he has too much to do on a Sunday night, say, but partly that is because his standards are very high. As my mother would say, sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.
He’s still doing a weekly French conversation class at home and his comprehension and French accent are pretty good. He makes a real effort to speak to the young woman we have in and he will always ask for words he doesn’t know.
He is still friendly with his brother and they have loads of interests in common – though not sports. They talk a lot.
And although they can drive each other crazy they are basically very fond of each other.
His sister has gone to England but they seemed to be getting on ok before she left but kind of in a ships passing in the night way rather than enthusiastic interactions. It’s more the three of them than Dan and herself alone.
He likes meeting his cousins who live across the city although, for obvious reasons, we haven’t seen a huge amount of them this year. Still it’s nice to have cousins who fall into a different category from friends or siblings. When we went to Wicklow on an extended family break, there was lots of bonding. His little London cousin is only 4 and he saw her for the first time in two years this autumn. I mean they get on fine and he is kind but they had relatively limited interactions.
He continues to be exceptionally fond of the cat.
He has made a huge conscious effort to become a less picky eater. He will try anything. It’s a real joy to cook for someone who actually likes my food. And he’s pretty good at cooking too.
He’s started to buy his own clothes a bit which is a new development this year. He wears nail varnish which is something, apparently, young men do now. He has the most beautiful hands, long and slender and his nail varnish looks terrific. I got some sparkly red nail varnish from an advent beauty box my sister gave me (it assumes levels of beauty knowledge which are far in excess of mine). I went into Dan and got him to put it on for me. It turns out his skills aren’t as impressive as I thought. It just looks amazing on him because he has such lovely hands. In fact, he told me that my nail varnish skills are ahead of his as he only found out the hard way that nail varnish is not removable from clothes.
My sister thinks that Ireland is the only country in the world which has such a fine line between funny and mean. Daniel has taken a while to get a hang of this but this year he has started to be quite funny although he can still accidentally be mean when trying to be funny. We’re getting there.
He is very helpful – and over the summer regularly cut the grass in the garden for me and tackled the swathes of greenery which regularly threaten to overwhelm us.
Overall, he’s a really good child, obliging, kind, generous and funny. I so wish Covid wasn’t looming over everything for him. On that front, at least, things should be better next year.