Silas Is 11!

Yes, he’s technically 11 + ~1 month. I’ve had a busy month…

Silas turned 11 last month, and we, as usual, made a whole thing over it. On his actual birthday, we had kind of a low-key family day. I declared a holiday from school work and chores, so he and Petra entertained themselves and goofed off. For dinner, he requested pizza with “all the meat,” so I made pepperoni + bacon pizza and fancy breadsticks.

Two children at a table, holding strips of bacon up to the light.
Admiring the light through the bacon…

Silas got calls and gifts from family far and near. He was thrilled with everything, which was kind of funny because all he ever says he wants is office supplies. One funny thing was that Petra’s gift was offering to rebind his falling-apart D&D player’s handbook. She gave him some redesigned covers, with pictures of cats knocking dice off tables and eating players. Silas said that he likes his book as it is, with the pages completely falling out, but appreciated the thought and loved her designs.

So now this goofball is 11. He’s technically in 6th grade, although we don’t pay much attention to grade levels here. This year has been a tough one for literally the whole world. It’s been rough on this social butterfly to not be able to spend as much time with his friends as he likes to, to constantly have to adjust plans, to learn to entertain himself (funny that it was hard—he’s so good at entertaining other people). He’s handling it well, though. He’s good about wearing a mask in public. He’s figured out how to plan and execute D&D sessions via video chat with his friends. He follows the news about the vaccine and is excited that his might be coming soon.

A boy in a hoodie with a cat shooting lasers from its paws. Boy is mimicking cat's pose.
Modeling his cat laser hoodie from Aunt Heather

I’m impressed with some of the social/emotional growing up he’s done this year. He recently upset Max at LEGO League because he was messing around and not taking the whole thing very seriously; the next session, his coaches were proud of him because he had programmed a mission for their robot. He told me afterward that he hadn’t understood how much his goofing off was bothering his friend. He valued their friendship enough to change his behavior. He’s navigated his friends exploring their identities. When one friend told him they were gender-fluid, he immediately began checking in about pronouns every time he saw them. When another (a girl who he had a bit of a crush on) came out as gay, he wondered why she was nervous about telling him. “As long as she will still be one of my best friends, it’s really fine,” he said.

I also continue to absolutely adore his friends. A lot of parents have to worry that their kids’ friends are going to be a bad influence or something. But these kids are amazing! Silas has a number of group chats with his pals, and although I do spot check them from time to time, there’s no bullying, no pressure, no questionable content. Mostly memes and in-jokes. They’re wonderful.

Group of children climbing on a live oak
Climbing around on the live oaks at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley with friends.

He is so curious about why people do what they do. He did a whole project about bullying that I shared here, and people still talk to me about it. We’re lucky that he has so many adults in his life who were willing to be vulnerable and share their stories, instead of giving him pat answers.

Silas kneeling in the river
Grounding his anxiety in the river

Silas has always had anxiety (and this year has been custom-made to exacerbate it!), but he’s learning to name it when it’s going on, and developing tools to deal with it. Some days are better than others, but I see him working on it. We’ve been doing voice recordings on my phone when he’s having a hard time and we try something to help him feel better. We’re thinking about making a podcast of tools for kids with anxiety. Having a list of random things to try and this idea of a podcast helps us navigate those rough spells.

Silas and Carlos in high ropes gear. Carlos is grinning, and Silas looks perturbed.

He’s also learning to do hard things. He really struggled with the high ropes course last spring, but he got through it. Petra decided she wants to go back there as her birthday outing, and I told Silas he could opt not to. He said he wanted to go. We’re going in a couple weeks, and I’m eager to see how he does—but most of all, I’m proud of him for being willing to try it again.

Silas cuddling with his dad and cat
Still loves to cuddle

He’s a fantastic brother; I couldn’t have asked for a better relationship between my kids. Petra can be kind of intense with him, and she doesn’t always use the kindest words, but he understands that she loves him. “I think physical violence is Petra’s love language,” he told me one time. He’s not wrong. They love to tussle, but when one of them gets hurt, the other one stops immediately and takes care of the injured party.

Petra and Silas seen from behind, looking down over the Shenandoah Valley from a high vantage point.

One of the things Silas mentioned in his birthday interview (below) was that he learned to play the uke this year. I forgot it’s only been a year since he started! We’ve had to be flexible because of COVID, but it’s worked out really well. His teacher is amazing (and she also teaches violin, guitar, and I think a few other instruments—let me know if you’re looking).

A picnic shelter, with a boy and a young woman playing ukuleles inside.
COVID-safe uke lesson at the park

Check out his progress (forgive the splice in the middle where he had to pause to look up a weird chord). I haven’t updated his progress montage since the six-month mark but the progress is evident and amazing.

Here’s his birthday interview. I feel like as he gets older, the responses get more “I don’t know.” I also forgot to ask him what he wants to be when he grows up (just asked; he says he doesn’t know).

Transcript (edited for clarity):

Happy birthday, Silas.

Thank you.

How old are you today?

11

How does it feel to be 11?

Just like it did to be 10.

Is it weird to think that you’ve been riding Spaceship Earth for 11 years?

What do you mean by “Spaceship Earth”? Earth is a spaceship?

Well, it moves through space, it carries people and plants and animals. It moves like 8 miles a minute through space.

I guess that makes sense. Interesting. I’ve never seen a spherical spaceship. Unless you count UFOs.

…The Death Star?

Oh, you’re right, the Death Star.

So, anyway, you’re 11 years into your voyage on Spaceship Earth—

Right. I wonder how long it will be until I reach death.

No one knows. I hope a long time. I hope you have many more solar circumnavigations. Can you tell me something exciting that happened this year?

I learned to play the uke.

How do you feel about playing the uke?

Good. I think. Yeah.

A year ago, did you think you would ever be as good as you are now?

No. A year ago, I thought I would never learn how it worked and would be terrible at it forever.

Do you like your teacher?

Yeah.

Do you have a favorite song to play?

No.

You’ve seen some plays recently. What plays have you seen recently?

Macbeth, Twelfth Night [this was over a year ago], The Bottom Show, which was a droll of Midsummer Nights dream. It was very good.

Is there anything you’re scared of?

Sort of. I have no idea what.

You mean general anxiety?

Yeah.

Have you created anything really cool the past year?

Me and Max are working on a Fakemon game. There’s twelve of them.

Can you tell me who some of your friends are?

Sam, Jack, Max, Elisabeth, Jude, Esau, Arthur, Lillian, James, Thomas, Ruth, Esther, Let’s see, Petra, Graham…I don’t know, I can’t list them all. Violet, Dahlia, Journey,..I don’t know. I have way too many. Not too many, just a lot.

I think this year you found your life motto.

Friend to most!

And you haven’t found anybody yet who doesn’t fit in that “most,” you’re just keeping your options open?

Yeah.

Can you tell me some of the things you like to do with your friends?

Depends which friend it is.

What do you like to do with Lillian?

Well, she’s writing a book and I like to randomly question about the book.

What’s the book about?

She hasn’t written it yet. She’s working on a setting or maybe just a world anyway it involves a tree. But anyway, there are aliens and they are fleeing their planets because they destroyed it. But only the rich aliens. The other aliens are back on their planet.

How do you feel about being a brother?

Happy.

Is there anything hard about it?

What would be hard about it?

Can you tell me something that’s special about our family?

We treat children like people.

Do you have a favorite book or book series?

Wings of Fire.

Didn’t you say that last year? Give me a second-favorite just in case that’s what you said last year.

Menagerie.

What would you like to tell your 20-year-old self?

Hi 20-year-old self! I’m you from the past. Nice to meet you. What’s it like in the future?

Previous birthday interviews here (and now I’ve realized I never posted his 10th birthday one!).

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