We gave him a watch, a Hobbit graphic novel, 2 calculators (one to pull apart and the other to replace his last school one that he pulled apart), a banana (yes, a real one), a box of fruit loops and a new Percy Jackson book.
A whole decade with Joel. Wow.
Joel was born at RPA at 9.30am, after a 7 hour labour (during which time I had so much gas that I couldn't quite work out if it was me experiencing the pain or someone else.) He has always been a very determined child. For the first 6 months, he was absolutely determined to sleep. He hated anything that took him out of his bassinet. He would feed quickly and aggressively (5 minutes, 5 times a day. Right from the start.) then pout until he was put back to bed. We made sure he was bathed every Sunday morning before church. If ever I had to take him out for a walk or to the shops, I made sure there was a dark coloured blanket covering the pram. In spite of this, people would still try to look in at the baby. Joel would let them know exactly what he thought of their presumption, glaring at them till they retreated. Shocked, they'd quickly make some comment about how cute Nathan was.
Joel got his first teeth at 16 weeks and wasn't afraid to use them. At 5 and a half months he learnt to crawl and was determined to do as much damage to himself and his environment as possible. Big brother Nathan's ordered environment was turned upside down and has never quite been righted. At around 9 months, Joel started smiling and at 11 months he learnt to walk.
At around 15 months Joel got cute. Really cute.
He also decided it was time to say goodbye to nappies. 'Too tight.' Despite the packing tape we'd strap them on with, he'd just take them off. But it didn't matter. There was a whole big world out there needing to be watered...
Joel has always been beautifully affectionate. He loves to touch and be touched. He notices things - a haircut, a new shirt, a particular fabric, soft washed hair, nice bed sheets, a flowing skirt on a lady at church... and quietly acknowledges them.
He's always been creative. I remember the extraordinary collages at kindy.
He's always been a little bit perfectionistic. The grief over the sticky tape that just isn't strong enough to stick what it needs to stick.
He's always been a boy of fewer than average words. Why communicate in words when you can do charades or draw a diagram, or just snuggle in behind me? (Or scream. And scream some more. And yell. At age 4 Joel told us that he throws tantrums because he enjoys it.)
It's always been clear that his mind works differently to most. Why could he identify 100 dinosaurs, but only 3 letters? Why were pink and white still confused at age 5? Why doesn't the year begin in December? Why had 3 year old Joel asked all the apologetic questions and yet at age 5 still have no idea which day followed which? Why could he listen to book after book read to him (and understand really advanced concepts) and yet still not recite the alphabet?
Joel has always been interesting. He loves poetry and music. Gets an adrenaline rush from an art gallery. Still holds my hand whenever he can. Kids gather around him at school because he has cool ideas. He could be with a friend every day of the week if I didn't set limits.
Joel has been the child I've lost the most sleep over and the one I most closely identify with. He has been with us for a decade - and yet, in a way for so much longer than that. I look at him and see my father, my mother, my sister, myself... he is so much my kin that I feel he's always been here.
Joel is 10 today. Thank you God for keeping him safe so far. Please guide us as we guide him through the next stages. In your mercy to him and to us, keep him close to you now and forever.