Ali: boy to man
He was a Solstice baby, born after what the doctors euphemistically called a 'trial of labour' - meaning: they didn't expect him to be born normally and were standing ready with the scissors to extract him the other way. No pressure, then! But he proved the experts wrong then and this set the pattern for the rest of his childhood.
We went to playgrounds, but he climbed on the tops of the swings, and the climbing frame roofs and up trees and on high walls. At school, he argued with the government's brand new Numeracy and Literacy Hours, putting himself (at 9 years old) on hunger strike until they would agree to give him some more interesting work. They tried to tempt him with all kinds of food, but nothing would induce him to eat. So they locked him in the library with his 'Numeracy and Literacy' work until he climbed out of the window and set off home.
The school gave up trying to forcibly shoehorn him into its round holes then - they phoned me with the suggestion that home education might be a better option for him. I'd thought so as well, for ages. It was Ali who had wanted to stay at school, to try to win the Numeracy and Literacy battle. At home, he got into Pokémon, but then found he couldn't read the Japanese characters on some of the cards he had. So he set about teaching himself Japanese, which he can now read, write and speak quite well. After that he did a bit of German and some Russian, then got into Internet coding languages. But honestly, he lost me at the Japanese, never mind the rest of it.
The thing about Ali is that he taught me how to parent in a different way. With Tom, it was OK for me to say: "NO. Don't do that," but Ali insisted on thinking everything through for himself. He had to know why he shouldn't do something, and to agree with the explanation before he complied. He saw power struggles as welcome challenges against which he would not be beaten. He made me think, and be creative. He has always forced my respect for him, and then returned it.
As the middle of the three teenagers he's the peacemaker, as you'd expect. The arbitrator. But sometimes he's the agitator too, as the mood takes him. He goes his own way. He refuses to be labelled and, just when you think you've got the measure of him, he surprises you with something you didn't expect. Always has and probably always will. He lives with integrity. He's dazzlingly intelligent and eloquent, and we all love him to bits.
That was the boy. Here's the man:
Happy birthday Al xxx