Happy 17th birthday to my beautiful boy. It’s been quite a year for you, as it has been for all of us.
This time last year, we were looking forward to your GCSEs, your dream rugby tour and lots of athletics, following your recovery from a fractured pelvis. Well the GCSE exams got cancelled, as did the athletics competitions. And the dream rugby tour remained only a dream – initially postponed until 2021, but then cancelled altogether.
But you have taken 2020 in your stride. You never complained about the restrictions and not being able to see your friends. You have remained cheerful and optimistic throughout. When we were only allowed out once a day to exercise, you went out once a day to exercise – and did more exercise at home. You’ve always been a good brother, but during lockdown you became a brilliant friend and support to your sister. While you were both denied the chance of seeing friends from elsewhere, you became each other’s best friend.
2020 has seen you mature into a really sensible and likeable young man. You are knowledgeable about so many things and always want to say or do the right thing. You won’t hear anyone say anything racist, sexist or homophobic and always put them right.
We were unsure how things would go for the GCSE results. We know you are incredibly clever, but you have always done the bare minimum of work. I felt you were probably one of those kids who would have benefited from actually doing the exams. We had nothing to worry about though – you came out with an incredible nine 9s, one 8 (in English language) and a 6 in art. We really couldn’t have hoped for better.
Knowing that you never did much work for GCSEs, I wondered how you would take to A Levels. Well we’re about six weeks in and you’ve taken to them very well indeed! You are doing chemistry, biology, maths and PE and you are really enjoying them all. Importantly, you are also putting the work in. You are revising for all of the little tests you wouldn’t have bothered with in the past – and it shows.
‘How did you do in your chemistry test?’
‘I got 35.’
‘Out of what?’
We’ve had several variations on this exact conversation – it might have been 32 out of 32 in biology or 28 out of 28 in PE, but it seems you are nailing your A Levels, while remaining incredibly modest. It would never be your style to rush home and tell me you got full marks in a test.
The chemistry and biology A Levels, as well as being something you enjoy and are good at, are the first stepping stone towards a medical career. We’ve read up a bit on studying medicine at university and everything we’ve heard has been about the importance of work experience and volunteering during 6th form – this could be shadowing a GP, a paid or volunteering role in a care home, being a St John first aider etc etc. But how do you get medical work experience during a pandemic? Nobody has the answer to that question. If you don’t manage to get your work experience before university, we will at least know that everyone else is in the same boat.
At the start of the year, you did three indoor athletics competitions, including a national championship in Sheffield. You were still recovering from your fracture and the results weren’t quite what you’d hoped for, but they were a stepping stone towards the outdoor season. You also managed to break the indoor club record for triple jump, which was a great achievement. You were looking forward to the county, regional and national competitions through school, the league competitions with your club and taking part in the senior league for your club too.
It was all cancelled.
In the end, you managed one competition where you just did 100m and two competitions where you did long jump. I’m pleased to say that you got a new PB, although you were just 3cm off the club record you’d hoped to break.
That new PB brought you the final excitement of your year – being picked for the England Athletics Youth Talent Programme, which is a huge achievement. This will give you the extra coaching and support you need to hopefully hit the magical 7 metres in your long jump next year.
I am proud of the way you have taken 2020 in your stride and made the most of what little bits of joy and excitement there has been to take from a really crap year. I really hope 2021 will be better for you and for all of us, and you can resume the business of being a normal teenager and enjoying life in the 6th form.
Happy birthday to my 17 year old boy!