It’s A Golden Birthday

My babies are growing up.

Too fast.

Oh, it didn’t feel like it early on. I remember those days when it was all pooping and crying and eating — and that was just me. And occasionally my husband. Hey, having kids is a huge adjustment. HUGE. Many days, bed time couldn’t come soon enough.

If only I had a buck for every grandparent who passed us at Target, as I was pushing a screaming or spewing or — if I was lucky — sleeping baby in the cart and said that the days go slowly but the years fly by, then we’d have an ivy-league level college fund.

They spoke the truth, though.

I barely remember those days. When the family movies flicker on the TV, it’s hard to throw myself back there. It seems like another lifetime, so many years have passed. And now my baby — THE BABY — is 17. In fact, this is his golden birthday, which I didn’t even know existed until a few years ago and now I feel super deprived that no one made a super huge deal over me when I turned 6.

He’s so grown up, No. 3. He looks like he could be in college and definitely already acts like he is, the way he leaves socks and shoes all over the house and empty candy wrappers scattered on his bedroom floor. I even caught him taking a swig straight from the orange juice carton.

When we Facetimed his sister the other day, away in California in her last year of college, she asked him if he had any birthday plans. He looked over at me and shrugged.

“I figure I’ll wait until Mom and Dad leave and that’s when I’ll throw a real party,” he said, smiling.

Always the jokester. Even as a toddler, he had a great sense of humor. I remember wheeling him into a dressing room while I tried on bras only to hear him giggling and when I turned around, he had one stretched out across his head. He drops one-liners like a comic trying to earn his slot for a tight 15 at Caroline’s and has always been a little too quick to accept when I toss out comedic challenges.

“I’ll give you $5 if you raise your hand and answer questions,” I told him when he was 8 and sent to school early with his middle-school-aged sister, who had a study session for an upcoming test. “Your sister can feed you the answers.”

He did it, much to the surprise of the science teacher. When he made it to middle school himself, I told him it would be funny if he wore his tear-away basketball sweats for the spelling bee finals — and ripped them off. He did it, much to his fellow students’ (but not so much his English teacher’s) delight.

When he was little, he used to sit next to me in our old, green “cuddle” chair. Some people call this furniture a chair and a half, I much prefer the term cuddle chair and that’s how it was used. Not for my husband and me, but No. 3, who’d climb up next to me to read together or watch TV. It was our spot up until the day we had to get rid of that dingy, dog-chewed thing.

No. 3’s always had this enviable ability to roll with whatever happens. Pizza delivery guy couldn’t find us at the park for his 4th birthday? Fine. It was OK with him to have a “reverse party” and eat cake first. Switch schools/basketball clubs/high schools? OK. 

He’s always been acutely aware of those kids who don’t quite fit in — probably because he’s witnessed that odd-man-out stuff in his own family. And, in a testament to how much of a leader he is, he’s always made a point of including those kiddos at the lunch table or picking them first for teams.

He’s also kind. When I was looking over his checking account — which I top off weekly — I questioned how he could spend so much at a Circle K on a day he played a game of pickup basketball at an outdoor city court in the dead of summer. He said he bought Gatorade. For $40?! How hot was it?! Turns out he got bottles for the homeless people who were also out in the 100-plus, mid-day heat.

He’s not one for big to-dos. I, however, do love pageantry and especially for birthdays. I like to make a fuss and so I bought plenty of tacky gold decorations from the party supply store. Of course, there’s basketball practice to work around, and celebrating — everything, really — takes a back seat to that.

During these weird COVID times, I haven’t had the personal interaction with teachers that I’ve had in years past. I dropped the ball this year and discovered WEEKS after school had already started that I missed a questionnaire from his creative writing teacher. I decided to fill it out anyway. It was all the usual stuff about contact info, any special needs, etc. And then the teacher asked if there was anything else he should know. I started typing until I filled the entire, too-small box with gushy mom stuff. “Yes, you should know that this kid is the real deal. He’s thoughtful, smart. He can work both sides of his brain and is equally adept at STEM-y stuff and writing. He enjoys joking around, but he knows when it’s time to knuckle down and work … Is he also a messy pig? YES. SO MESSY. But, he is also kind and considerate, and you’ll be happy to have him in class.”

I’m not sure how No. 3 is going to take it when I tell him — a year from now — that he’s going to be home-schooled for college, but I feel like he’ll be able to roll with it. 

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