Remains of the day

By Mir
January 4, 2007

(Not to be confused, of course, with the remains of the cake.)

Monkey’s 7th birthday has come and gone, and I haven’t cried (much) and Chickadee wasn’t jealous (much) and all went well except for the part where in order to buy enough stuff to be able to use my credit card, when I was picking up party plates and napkins I bought a big bag of Flipz and now I can’t stop eating them. And given the spectrum of possible birthday calamities, that seems pretty manageable.

As is our custom, I quietly woke Chickadee this morning and we burst into Monkey’s room to wake him with the birthday song. He popped out of bed and wiggled and danced his way through his morning routine, declaring “It’s my biiiiirthday!” so many times that finally Chickadee hissed at him “I KNOW! STOP SAYING THAT!”

Otto called during breakfast, and Monkey piped up, “Does he know it’s my birthday?” No, he has NO IDEA, he routinely calls us at o’dark thirty just to chat. Oh, wait, no he doesn’t. Many happy returns were wished upon the birthday boy and he went back to dancing in his chair with his pop-tart.

Upon checking my email I discovered a message from my mother to Monkey, so I called him in to hear it. “Does she know it’s my birthday?” No, she just picked TODAY OF ALL DAYS to send you mail. How about that!

He danced to the bus stop and high-fived the bus driver and waved frantically out the window while yelling, “I’LL SEE YOU THIS AFTERNOON! FOR MY BIRTHDAY!”

I have to say, there is little I wanted to do less today than go feed cake to a roomful of 1st graders. My head is clogged, my throat is sore, I’m tired and achy and miserable. Often in years past I’ve just dropped off the special birthday snack and let the teachers do their thing. But this year Monkey really wanted me to come in, and this year I felt like I really needed to be there.

Because this year, Monkey has been struggling, and I have been agonizing, and if he had said, “Mama, this year I would really like a pony,” well, I probably would’ve asked him what color I should look for. We’re nearly at the end of the various tests the school decided to run, and so far we know he’s plenty bright but very, very anxious. You know, the kid is in first grade. Pretty much the most stressful part of his day should be figuring out if his underwear is on backwards or not. While I am relieved to know that he’s neither learning disabled nor psychotic, I just want him to be happy. Happy and secure like he used to be.

He wanted me to come in for his birthday, so I came in for his birthday.

He crashed into me seconds after I entered the classroom, so hard that I nearly dropped the cake. He showed me the special birthday picture one of his friends had made for him, and told me all about how they announced his birthday on the loudspeaker and the whole class cheered. Then he followed the teacher’s directions to pick some helpers to serve, and we started passing out cake and milk.

Once everyone had cake and a cup of milk, Monkey jumped atop his chair and raised his arms in anticipation. Through stifled giggles the teacher led the class in singing to him, and he beamed throughout. Then he leapt down and took a huge bite of cake and declared me the best baker in the entire world.

You’d think that THAT would be when my heart exploded, but it actually happened later, after the cake was done and all the brightly-colored plates had hit the wastebasket. Monkey asked if we could take a slice of cake to the guidance counselor he has lunch group with each week. We brought her a slice of cake and she thanked us and said she’d come over to the classroom in a minute. Back in class, Monkey joined a cluster of children who were building a city out of blocks. I chatted with the teacher—who told me I’m the only parent so far this year who actually baked at home, so I treated her to the story of how much fun it is to frost a cake while your nose runs, which I’m sure she loved—and marveled as my son negotiated multiple social interactions with grace and charm. Just like he used to.

The guidance counselor came over with a small gift for Monkey, and then treated me to an earful about what a delightful kid he is, and how hard he’s working on his issues, and his teacher agreed; and I stood there with them each on one side of me, telling me how great my son is and how much they enjoy him.

That’s when my heart exploded. Because: Again, first grade. He shouldn’t have issues, and he shouldn’t have to work hard. But it is awfully nice to know that in spite of all of that, the Monkey I know and love is still in there. And he’s coming out often enough that others are getting to see him, too.

Then it was time to clean up and fetch Chickadee and head home. Monkey opened his presents and he and his sister spent the next forty five minutes until their father arrived clocking each other’s spazz-out speed with Monkey’s new radar gun. They then spent the evening celebrating with Daddy and returned home in high spirits.

In Monkey’s mind—where molehills are sometimes threatening mountains—today was Disneyworld wrapped up in Chuck E. Cheese with all the Transformers sprinkled on top. It was everything. I worried all day that his expectations wouldn’t be met, somehow, and he would be disappointed. But his expectations were only that today would be his birthday, and therefore, perfect.

And it was. Just like he is.

Happy birthday, my very favorite boy.


  1. Sandee

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!!

  2. carson

    You make me laugh and cry at the same time.

  3. carrien

    heart exploding in resonance over here, thinking about yours, thinking about mine. Happy Birthday Monkey, I’m glad it was a good day.

  4. Cele

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!!

    psst: does he know, we know it’s his birthday? ;)

  5. Karin

    I’m so glad I don’t have any mascara on right now because it would be smeared all over my face. Happy birthday Monkey :)

  6. Jules

    Happy birthday sweet Monkey!!

    ..and happy Monkey’s birthday, made it through another one and whilst your heart may have beats so very strongly for your babies (((hugs)))
    Love you to bits.

  7. Lady M

    Sniff. I’m all teary. What a wonderful day!

  8. Kelly

    Oh my! I am all teary too. I am also having trouble with my 7 yo daughter. She has been very said for a awhile now. Things are looking up. She is the classic middle child and my heart bleeds for her.

    I am so glad Money had a wondeful day. Those are the days you could go through over and over again.

  9. Nancy

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  10. shannon

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

  11. Muirnait

    Happy birthday, Mr. Monkey! That radar gun looks tremendously cool.

  12. Lena

    What a beautiful post. Happy birthday big boy!

    Seven! Ahhh! That’s only …1…2…years away for me. *cries*

  13. Kendra

    Tears…tears…tears…and I have mascara on!

    Sweet, sweet Monkey–and what a lucky mother you are to have had that (so needed) interaction and reassurance that your big boy is as magnificent as you think he is! And I know the heart-swelling pride doesn’t wear off when you see your 7 year old interacting with his classmates (as I’m new to seeing RPJ interacting with (or even caring about) other kids).

    Thanks for the great post–I don’t say that enough :)

  14. Jean

    Happy birthday to Monkey and I hope your cold is getting better. Just wanted to tell you, a few of my kids had problems with first grade too. From our perspective, it doesn’t seem like it would be so stressful, but I guess things look different from 36 inches (or so). I think that watching our kids struggle is the hardest thing we moms do. Hang in there, he’ll come through.

  15. Jenifer

    Awwwww…. Happy Birthday Monkey!! May your seventh year be full of fun and adventure!

  16. Ben

    Happy Birthday, Monkey! It’s just starting to get good, fella…

  17. Terri

    What a beautifully written post! I’m so glad that Monkey is doing better. I’ve been worried about my own 1st grader a lot lately, and I know how wonderful it was for you to have such a beautiful experience with him at school. May your heart explode many more times!!!

    Happy birthday to Monkey and happy day to you all!

    p.s. When I took cupcakes in for my son’s birthday in November, I was informed that they were the first home-baked birthday treats of the year, as well. Does no one else bake anymore? One of my neighbors told me years ago that the schools wouldn’t let you bring in home-made goods, but since I haven’t been told that by the teachers or administrators, I don’t think there’s such a ban.

  18. Sara

    Many happy returns of the day, Monkey! Seven is cool. And was that a red velvet cake in that picture or did my eyes deceive me? Red velvet or not….mmmmm…cake…

  19. Sophie

    My heart is exploding, too! Happy birthday to you, Monkey! And congrats to you, too, Mom. He couldn’t have done it without you.

  20. Amy Lou

    Happy Happy Birthday, Monkey!! I’m glad you had such a fun day!

  21. chris

    It does sound like a perfect day, for both of you.

  22. Ei

    Fantastic. Truly.

  23. Crisanne

    Thank you for sharing your special day with us! Happy Birthday Monkey!!

  24. Aimee

    Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. *sniffle* Happy Birthday, Monkey-boy.

  25. Betsy

    Happy birthday, Monkey!

    Here in Portland, Oregon, we cannot bring in homemade treats for birthdays or other school occasions. From what I understand, it’s a liability issue for the school district (for issues like kid allergies/sensitivities as well as other safety concerns, I believe.)

    My daughter and I routinely make treats (mini muffins) that she shares with teachers and other school employees – but we can’t give them to other kids.

  26. Rachel May

    Wow, Mir… What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Happy, happy, happy birthday, Monkey!!!!

  27. sumo

    I remember the eve before my 8th birthday thinking that 7 was a good year. That’s about the only time I can remember getting reflective like that before a birthday, so it must have been a really good time.

  28. Lesley

    Happy Birthday, Monkey! I stress so much about making their birthdays perfect too. (My kids, not yours, although if you want me to, I’ll stress over yours…) Why IS that?

  29. Kate

    “Pretty much the most stressful part of his day should be figuring out if his underwear is on backwards or not.”

    Should be, but for me at least, school was always a big-time stress-out. Trying to negotiate all of the people (twenty some at a time when I was used to the three at home) and all the work (reading, writing, math, and the bajillion other things they pile on) was not easy at any age.

  30. MMM

    Oh, so sweet! Mir, you rock!

  31. Crisanne

    Oh, here’s a tip to avoid that hand cramp from the lettering:

    Melt some chocolate chips in the microwave. Scoop the chocolate into a ziploc bag. Snip a very small piece off of one corner of the bag.

    It will flow very nicely for lettering. Practice on some waxed paper to get the feel for it.

  32. Bob

    Happy Birthday Monkey! Happy Monkey’s Birthday Mir! My son turned 21 recently and I thought it would be a milestone. Nope, he’s his same obnoxious loving self. Can’t tell the difference now’s he’s a fully fledged adult. NOT.

  33. Susan

    I think MY heart exploded while I was reading that.

    (Also, Henry put HIS underwear on backwards this morning. Ha ha! So funny.)

  34. ChristieNY

    Happy birthday to Monkey!!! o

  35. Liz

    Happy Birthday, Monkey – my favorite little boy turns 8 at the end of this month and I hope I make through as well as you did…transformers sprinkled on top, and all!

  36. Melanie Marie

    Happy Birthday!

  37. Jenn2

    We’re all doing a birthday boogie over here in honor of Monkey’s birthday.

  38. Zuska

    Man, I was nothing but a mass of weeping eyeballs BEFORE I read this and now, I’m beyond even THAT!!! What a great post, and how wonderful to hear that Monkey is still Monkey. Sounds like he enjoys his birthday just as much as my little guy – makes my heart go pitter-patter every single year.

  39. Katherine

    What a beautiful post. I do wish I could see certain things again through younger eyes. Wow, I don’t that I’ll ever be that excited for a birthday again in my life. How wonderful it was everything he hoped.

  40. elswhere

    This post melted my heart like a bagful of chocolate chips in the microwave.

    Happy birthday to Monkey! First grade is a pip, isn’t it. Us, too.

  41. rachel

    happy birthday to monkey! sounds like a wonderful day!

    hope the leftover cake helps clear up your stuffed head

  42. Amy-Go


    That was my heart, after reading this.

    Happy birthday Monkey!!

  43. Judy

    Happy, happy birthday, Monkey… I hope you have a great rest of the year!

  44. Em

    Sounds like a great birthday…for both of you!

  45. Jenny

    Happy birthday to your sweet boy! I am so happy that he’s finding his footing.

  46. Kris

    Oh, this resonated with me so much. I have a first grader that has struggled with “issues” too, and had a similar heart-exploding moment last month. Beautifuly post, Mir! *wipes eyes*

  47. Jess

    Happy Birthday Monkey. My son got the radar gun from Santa. He and his older brother now race around the house clocking each others speed. Good times good times.

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