Happy 5th birthday, Oliver!

Carlotta Cerri

My little monkey,

You’re 5 today, and we’re on a farm in New Zealand: I honestly can’t think of a better place for you to celebrate your special day. In nature, with all the freedom you can possibly ask for, and a pet goat called Mara that follows your every step and “protects” you from the sheep. When I look at you here, like it happened before on other farms, I have this feeling that you’re exactly where you want/need to be.

Last year, in my birthday letter, I made you a promise: I’ll keep learning about you, and adapting myself to you. Today I was reflecting if I were able to keep my promise.

I know I’m not always the mother you need me to be: these first 10 months as a full-time traveling family have tested me and my mental health in new, unpredictable ways, and while dealing with my personal demons, I sometimes struggled to accept and welcome your changing moods, your big emotions, and your “non-senses”—because the way you see the world doesn’t always makes sense to me.

But I also spent more time with you than ever before: without school, close friends, and familiar sight, you and Emily have often been my only friends, my adventure buddies when daddy was working, my mood lifters and my sanity checkers (sometimes the exact opposite, sure, but that’s just motherhood, right?).

We talked more than ever. I observed you more than ever.

I’ve watched you grow from a reserved big boy, into a confident little man, someone who chats everybody up, is not afraid to ask questions, helps Emily and shows her the way. I’ve watched you conquer fears, try new things, get out of your comfort zone, and adapt with ease. I’ve watched you learn about the world—and you always surprise me with your memories of places, cultures and people. I watched you turn the whole family into non meat-eaters with tricky questions like, “Do you like piggies? Then why do you eat them?” (How can you argue with that?). I watched you realise that the world is not always like we want it, but we can always try to make it better, like that time that you made me run after a plastic bag flying around the streets of Bali, so it won’t end up in the sea. I’ve watched you make friends everywhere in the world, without even noticing the color of their skin or the clothes of their belief. I’ve watched you put yourself in other people’s shoes and feel their emotions in a way that many people work their entire existence to achieve (I might be one of those). I’ve also watched you fight for what was important to you, being it cleaning the beach even if it was already late, or having to get more food because the goat ate it all and there was nothing for the sheep.

And when these changes came with a fight, I often managed to remind myself: I’m the one who has to adapt. I’m the one who has to be more understating, more patient, more welcoming.

So yes, I think I kept my promise, and I honestly think you feel it, too: you show and accept love more often, our relationship has improved, our friendship has strengthened, we respect and accept each other more, we’re both more willing to compromise. But above all, I think I finally learnt that to me loving you unconditionally means that I don’t want you to change, I want to change for you. I can’t always do it, but I always try.

Happy birthday, my little man. I can’t wait to see what this month on the farm will bring.


And here’s a little conversation that made us smile the day before we celebrated your birthday with nonna in Bali:

“Daddy, what are you giving me for my birthday?”

“Oli, you know we don’t do birthday gifts, we buy things when we need them”

“No, I know, I mean, you make something for me”

“What would you like?”

“I like you to draw a Spiderman, a bicycle and a heart”.

“Ok, Oli, I can do that”.

“Thank you, daddy”.

Daddy told me, and I made it happen.

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