Attention Young Master Monkeypants:
Today is your birthday. You are eight whole years old! That is—as your sister solemnly informed you a month or so back—the beginning of being a tween. From there you’ll become a teenager, and from there it’s off to college and a life that in all likelihood does not include snuggling your mother at every possible opportunity. I cannot say that I approve of this progression, but I am trying to deal with it.
This is the first time in the 9-and-a-half years since I became a parent that I am not with one of my kids on their birthday. You are still hanging out at your dad’s house, and I’ll see you tomorrow. You’re having a great time. I know this because when I called you this morning your voice practically vibrated with the pride of having managed to live eight years. You informed me that the biggest difference was that you were finding it more difficult to talk in a baby voice.
The very next sentence, you used your baby voice. (You’re such a trooper!)
I am surprised at how difficult this is for me, and I’ll even admit to feeling a bit of sympathy for your dad, today, now that I’ve had a taste of what it probably feels like for him a lot of the time. Last night I dreamt that you arrived home with a buzz cut; your father is always joking about shaving that mop off of your head, and in my dream you surprised me with “Daddy cut my hair!” After close to a year of struggling with this whole “growing out your hair” thing, in my dream I beheld your shorn head and burst into tears, completely inconsolable.
Psssssst! Monkey? I love your long hair.
It’s weird and moppy and unkempt and utterly, precisely you. I love that it tickles you when someone mistakes you for a girl. I love that you’ll laugh even harder when I offer to trim your eyelashes with the kitchen shears, just to make you look a little more manly. I love that all of your friends have short hair and when they ask you why you want yours long you just shrug and say, “I dunno. I just do.”
You are becoming your own dog, kid. That’s pretty neat to watch. Today, sure, it’s hair, maybe for no reason at all. But tomorrow, who knows? You’ll pick your own path, that’s for sure.
I love that you are unselfconscious in trotting out your big vocabulary and powers of deduction. You hadn’t been at your aunt and uncle’s house for more than ten minutes when you listened to something your uncle said and countered, “You’re using sarcasm. Very funny!” Five minutes later, it was, “Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s a rhetorical question. You already KNOW the answer!”
When you’re feeling a bit anxious in a social setting, you’ll start blurting out math facts, Rainman-style, as a way to bolster your confidence. Maybe we can work on you doing that in your head, instead, but I’m sure I’ll miss the spontaneous declarations such as “One quarter plus one quarter equals one HALF. That’s FRACTIONS!”
Yesterday as Otto and I ran various errands, we went over to the sporting goods store and got you some new gear for soccer. You endured two seasons wearing baseball socks because I’m athletically retarded and didn’t know any better, but because I love you (and because the elastic is shot in those socks, now), this next season you’ll have real live soccer socks. I also got you some new shin guards, as your spindly little calves did decide to grow a little this year. None of these things are going to make you any better at playing soccer, and heaven knows you are not exactly World Cup material, but you love it all. “I’m getting better!” you assert cheerfully. You high-five your teammates and run around happily, unbothered by the fact that your enthusiasm far outruns your ability.
Your essential nature as a sponge of compassion hasn’t changed, despite the various overlays of events and emotion that sometimes obscure it. One day you came home from school with a furrowed brow. “Mama,” you said with a heavy sigh, “I am very worried about Phil.” [Phil sits next to you in class right now.] “He doesn’t have very good self-esteem.” I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing, so dire was your countenance. “He always says he can’t do things, and I think his attitude is keeping him down. What can we do to help him?” My guess is that just being near you is helping him a lot, sweet boy.
Today when I asked you what sort of cake I should have ready for you tomorrow, you told me to make vanilla with vanilla frosting, because that’s what Chickadee likes. When I reminded you that it’s YOUR birthday and YOU can choose, you said, “Well, I’m having chocolate with chocolate, here. You should make what she likes for home.” And then I reached right through the phone and gobbled you up, because that sort of matter-of-fact sweetness cannot go unnibbled.
Have a wonderful birthday today! You’ll always be my baby, even if you are getting too big. I suspect that 8 is truly going to be a great year for you, and not just because it rhymes. Though I’m sure you’ll be reminding me about the rhyming part.
I’m just going to apologize right now for kissing you too much tomorrow.
See you soon! I have a big rock all wrapped up for your birthday present, too! (Yes, yes, I can hear you. “You are making a joke. You would NEVER actually just give me a rock. I’d probably cry.”)