The Force is strong in you

By Mir
January 5, 2009

Dear Monkey,

I have to tell you something. I have to tell you that I’m sorry; the timing of your birthday is less than ideal, for a number of reasons. Everyone is still away on vacation or just getting back and recovering. You often get gypped out of gifts by those who claim your Christmas present is also for your birthday. Some people just plain forget, in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

And then there’s me. All I want, come January, is to resume Life As Normal. The holidays have worn me out and I am craving a return to the mundane. I probably don’t greet the task of whipping up a cake… and then cupcakes for school… and then talking about party planning… with as much excitement as I should. It’s not that I’m not thrilled to celebrate you, it’s just that I’m tired.

But yesterday, none of that mattered.

You bounded into my room first thing in the morning and dove under the covers to hug me. “I’m nine I’m nine I’m nine I’M NINE!” you declared, wrapping your arms and legs around mine, shocking me with your gangliness, as if you’d just grown a foot overnight. “Go me, it’s my birthday, go me, it’s my birthday!” you concluded with a little dance and much giggling. We snuggled and you submitted to my slathering of kisses.

Once we got up and headed to the kitchen, I opened the fridge to check on your cake. It didn’t need checking, but it meant I was able to pick up a detached bit of chilled glaze and hand it to you for tasting. You’d said, “Chocolate!” when you saw it, but as the morsel melted in your mouth your eyes lit up and you nearly swooned. “MINT chocolate!” you corrected yourself with glee.

That’s right; when you turn nine, you get a chocolate mint truffle cake even if it means I have to send Otto back to the store (twice) for things I forgot. The good news is that the leftover buttermilk means homemade pancakes in the morning. The bad news is that I think I gained fifty pounds putting that baby together. I mean, there’s rich, and then there’s that cake.

It was then time for the festivities to begin. Otto made the pancakes.

You got a special one shaped like a 9. Of course. (You also got the first attempt at a 9, which led to five minutes of HILARIOUS jokes about you being 99, or 69, or twins!)

After pancakes, we did presents. And even though it was just Christmas, even though you’d just gotten mountains of presents just a week or so ago, you were genuinely delighted and pleased with every item. You thanked your sister for the game, and you gasped in delight over the long-awaited Lego Star Wars Wii disc, and then again over the tool box and real tools Otto had picked out for you. You agreed when I asked you to wait until later to put together your new water-powered model car, and then twenty minutes later you announced, “I’m done, I need some distilled water!” as if hey, you’d waited long enough, already.

You checked out all of your tools and then submitted to a haircut (“Just a trim! To get rid of the split ends!”) and then passed a blissful afternoon playing your new Star Wars game. “Look! I cut off his LEG!” (Good clean dismemberment fun—it’s the American way.)

You began apologizing to your sister before dinner, assuring her that you hadn’t picked fish to upset her. And I reminded no one in particular that ON YOUR BIRTHDAY you get to eat what YOU want, and those of us who wish to eat something different are certainly welcome to do so and NOT COMPLAIN, and so it was. We all had salad and rice and then those of us who are carnivores had pesto-crusted salmon and those of us who are not had some lentils. And by the way, what sort of 9-year-old requests pesto-crusted salmon for dinner? Are you sure you’re not turning 59? Perhaps Omega-3s are the source of your great strength. (I mean, it’s that or your hair. It could go either way.)

After dinner we had cake, and it’s so rich that I gave out just small slices. You wolfed yours down and asked if you could have more—your lips were chocolate-rimmed and your braces packed with frosting—and I said “Of course,” and cut you a second slice. You only turn nine once, you know.

Last night as I tucked you in, I asked if you’d had a good birthday. “Yes! I AM NINE!” you answered, throwing your arms around my neck. “And I had a VERY GOOD birthday! I think it was my best ever. And maybe next year when I turn TEN I’ll have an EVEN BETTER one!” We said our goodnights and I turned out the light and left you to sleep.

If it’s okay with you, I’m not going to think about next year when you turn ten, just yet. I still can’t believe you’re not a fat, wriggly baby anymore. You are nine, and for nine years you’ve been teaching me that joy is a lot less complicated than I tend to think it is. Because it’s not that your life is so much easier or better than anyone else’s, just that you’re so much better at enjoying it. Which is a mighty power, indeed.

Thanks for sharing it with me. Funny, but I can’t seem to remember what life was like nine years ago.



  1. Erin

    Your son seems to have mastered something I struggle with several times on a daily basis. Would you mind if a 20 something college student made your 9 year old son her hero?

  2. barbara

    Wow, Mir…..that was just beautiful!

  3. Megan

    Happy birthday Monkey – and make the most of this last year of single digits. Hope it’s magical. The lovely thing is that this Monkey boy seems to be the sort who will see it as magical regardless; may he never lose those beautiful, rosy glasses he’s got!

  4. liz

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

    (Question for Mir: Did he request for you to clean up his split ends before or after he requested the pesto-crusted salmon? That is one classy boy you got there.) :)

  5. Randi

    Toad’s birthday is the beginning of December, and we go through the same type of situation. Fortunately no one has left on vacation by then, so he can have a party.

    I’m so glad you guys had a great day – and I’m glad that Monkey got to have what he wanted for dinner (that’s our family rule as well!)

    Happy Belated Birthday to Monkey!

  6. Lacey

    That sounds like a wonderful birthday.

    And my thirty-something husband and I have not been able to figure out that Star Wars game, I guess I need a 9 year old like Monkey around to .

  7. exile on mom street

    Happy birthday Monkey!

    May you continue sharing your joie de vive with the internet (via your Mama, of course) for many more birthdays to come!

  8. Charmed

    Our house rule too – the birthday person gets what they want for dinner. When my son turned six he requested corned beef and cabbage. What six year old does that? And his birthday is shortly after St. Patricks day so we had just HAD that!

  9. Neil

    A chocolate mint truffle cake? Pace yourself. How are you going top that next year? At this rate, by age 13, you are going to need to have a cheerleader jump out of the cake.

  10. Nancy

    Happy Birthday to Monkey!

    My son’s birthday is January 12. Every year I got through Christmas, then New Years, and then Yikes! a birthday party to plan. He is 24 next week, and claims to never have felt left out, and that he had great parties. Now he just wants dinner out (usually Indian) and this year running shoes. He too is like your Monkey – kind, smart, witty – always with the funny remarks. Must be the January babies – or maybe the second child – or maybe following an older sister? Have never figured it out, but have treasured every day with this wonderful guy.

  11. StephLove

    Happy, happy birthday, Monkey and many more!

    Nine’s a good year. I liked nine (being nine I mean, not having a 9 year old– my oldest is will be 8 in the spring.)

  12. Jenn

    Happy Birthday Monkey!! I’m a Christmas baby too and I TOTALLY understand the combo Christmas/Birthday present but it sounds like we both have Mom’s who do a good job of handling THAT little problem. Nine is a super-duper awesome year. Enjoy every fabulous minute.

  13. ImpostorMom

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

    Mine has one of those Christmassy Birthdays too and I have vowed to make it special for him each and every year despite it being only four days after Christmas. I hope that the small things will be just as special for Boog as they seem to be for Monkey.

  14. Sheila

    Sounds like you did everything you could to make his day special. And now I would like you to be my mom. (My birthday is next month- shrimp and cheesecake, please!)

    I tell you what, that Monkey is one charming nine year old!

  15. Marissa

    Happy Birthday Monkey!!

    My son turned 8 on December 18th –right it the upswing to Christmas, so I understand your slight lack of enthusiasm for yet another celebration. I made 28 chocolate with green frosting cupcakes in the midst of Christmas cookie baking, gift buying, gift wrapping and of course working. Thankfully this year I am done with law school so there were no exams to deal with!!

    My equally sophisticated boy requested sushi for his b-day dinner and a chocolate chocolate cake–had he known mint chocolate was a choice he’d have picked that. His 700+ piece Star Wars lego set (that cost a small fortune) was completed the next evening.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, my son and Monkey would be fast friends. (I suspect you and I would be too!)

  16. Angela

    Happy Birthday, Monkey. That was a beautiful description of your day.

    BTW… I also know what it is like to have a Christmas birthday. Couple that with coming from a family with a strange/morbid sense of humor, and one year you get one shoe for your birthday and one for Christmas. It was enough to NEVER try to conceive when it’s even remotely possible to have a Dec/Jan birthday.

    The cake sounds delicious!

  17. Jeanmarie

    I overheard my oldest tell her aunt yesterday “My mom is hysterical crying on my birthday every single year – do you KNOW what double digits is going to do to her??!!”
    I am sending her to Never Never Land before February so she will stay nine forever!!

  18. Katie in MA

    Anyone else up for starting a “Monkey for a day” campaign? Complete with t-shirts, perhaps?

  19. Half Assed Kitchen

    Oh, Monkey. Oh, Mir. Nicely, NICELY written. Happy Birthday 9-year-old!! What a great, year, nine.

  20. dad

    Sorry you all couldn’t stay long enough to have Monkey’s birthday here. It sounds like it was a great party. A day like that emphasizes that we all have love to give and that uniqueness is not..well, unique. Many happy returns.

    Put me on the the invitation list for his 13th birthday party. I want to be there when the cheerleader comes out of the cake.

  21. Erin

    Happy birthday, Monkey! :D I think you’re a really special person, and someone from whom we could all learn a lot. In fact, I already have.

    Enjoy being nine!!!

  22. Lylah

    “joy is a lot less complicated than I tend to think it is.”

    I am writing that down and putting it where I can see it every day.

    Happy birthday, Wise Monkey! Congratulations, Mir!

  23. momzen

    Happy Birthday, Monkey! Nine is awesome. Much better than eight. :)

  24. Denise

    Happy Birthday, Monkey and Happy Birthday, Mir.

  25. Lady M

    That was beautiful.

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  26. kailani

    Go, Monkey…you’re nine!!!
    Happy Birthday!!

  27. TC

    We’re gearing up for my “baby” to turn 8 in a couple of weeks, two days after I turn mumbledy-five. These January birthdays ARE hard. But celebrating adorable little boys sure isn’t.

    Happy belated birthday, Monkey!

  28. Burgh Baby

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  29. Tatiana

    Awwh, what a great birthday — for the whole family :) I still get giddy like a kid on my birthday (today!!)

  30. Camels & Chocolate

    What a wonderful post! Here’s to nine more, Monkey!

  31. Lori

    Double digits on the horizon! It’s best not to think about it though.

    My nephew turned 7 yesterday. It’s a good day for birthday boys! My hubby’s birthday is Christmas eve so somehow Jan 4 doesn’t seem so bad. Even if you have to send party invites before Christmas.

  32. Erin

    It sounds like Monkey had a WONDERFUL birthday. With that I’d like to say that I have a December birthday and the only person who ever tried the “this Christmas gift is also for your birthday” crapola with me was my MIL and I was a full-grown woman at the time. Because I was a woman I didn’t really care. Really, I was not surprised or upset but amused. Anyone who does that to a child, however, is a clueless loser. I can’t believe someone did that to him.

  33. Angella

    Happy, happy birthday to a wonderful Monkey.

  34. juliness

    That was lovely but unfortunately I’ll now need to touch up my mascara before work. It was totally worth it though – Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  35. DW

    OMG. I am newly pregnant and Chocolate Mint cake sounds SOOOOO good.
    Thanks Monkey!


  36. Flea

    Monkey is single digit for a whole ‘nother year! And you’ll be his best mama ever for the rest of his life. :)

  37. Diahn

    Wonderfully written – I could relate OH so well. My Doodlebug turned 9 on Dec. 23 – TWO DAYS before Christmas – but he was more excited about turning 9 than anything else. He, too, bounded in my room and declared himself 9. I’ve never seen him so excited about a birthday.

    And he chose Olive Garden for his birthday dinner…

  38. Kemi

    What a lovely post! Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  39. MomCat

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!! You’re amazing!

  40. vanessa

    Happy Birthday Monkey!
    Beautiful post, Mir.
    And that cake…I might have to try that…

  41. jess

    I’m another near-Christmas baby (Dec. 30th), so I completely understand the “This is for Christmas AND your birthday” schtick. Even cards! I feel for poor Monkey on that one. I’m glad you all had such a great day and…mint chocolate? Where were you for MY birthday a few days ago?

    It feels like a great year to be a nine! (I turned 29, so I’ve got the nines, too.)

  42. Katherine

    My little boy will only be 9 for a few more weeks. I must say that 9 has been one of my favorite years. When he turned 6, he confounded the waitress by ordering salad instead of french fries with his birthday lunch. I don’t know what he’ll choose for dinner this year, but I’m sure it will be good. (and I’ve marked that cake recipe for MY birthday in a few months!)

  43. Cindy

    Wow that was a beautiful letter for your son. I also have a 9 yr old & this is still such a fun age. He still likes to try to sit in my lap & will hold my hand & even try to kiss me at times. I also have a 15 yr old so I keep telling myself I better enjoy this now!! Anyway, you brought tears to my eyes. Thank you!!

  44. FringeGirl

    Oh, I’m so glad your son had a happy birthday. My little boy will be nine the end of the month. It goes by too quickly. I totally uderstand how you feel about a birthday so close to the holidays. My daughter’s birthday is Dec. 28th. It’s such a bad time for a birthday. My house becomes a sea of decorations…Christmas and birthday melding together.

  45. debra

    *swoon* What a great kid! Is it okay if I adore him from afar?

    Give him a birthday hug for me! :)

  46. Dawn

    I was born on December 23. The next day that my dad went back to work, a co-worker congratulated him on being so clever as to have had a kid that close to Christmas, “Think of the money you’ll save on gifts!” And he vowed there and then that I would always have a separate, non-Christmas themed birthday. The only concession made was that I would have my party the first Saturday in December so my friend’s parents wouldn’t have to shell out for a birthday gift for me out of their last paycheque before Christmas.

    I love having a birthday on the 23rd. No one’s partied out yet and it’s like a four-day party right up to Boxing Day. I still threaten violence to those who give me “your Christmas birthday” cards or anything Christmas themed for my birthday, though. Bah, humbirthdaybug!

    What a lovely man your Monkey will grow up to be. Anyone who can take that much joy in his day-to-day life has truly been given a gift. He’s also lucky to have such an eloquent momma.

  47. O.G.

    Great post. You must be doing something right as a parent if your child wants pesto crusted salmon. Way to expose your kids to great food!

  48. Ramblin'Red

    Beautiful thoughts here, Mir. And serious gourmet tastebuds your boy has there!! LMNOB loves salmon, but probably not pesto crusted!

  49. Julie

    When Lil Daughter was nine she poured an entire bottle of glitter all over—-ALL OVER!!—-EVERY piece of furniture in her room.
    “Lil Daughter!!’, I screamed. “What were you thinking!?!?!?!”
    “I wanted my furniture to sparkle.”
    She’s 22 now and some of that furniture is still sparkling. ;)
    And it’s ok.

  50. Cele

    Happy Birthday, Monkey. Happy Birthday and thank you for the years of smiles.

  51. Paulla

    What a sweet post. Happy Birthday to Monkey. :)

    I have a January child too (next week) right after having her sister (a year earlier) on Christmas Eve. I can totally relate to the after-Christmas-oh-yeah-another-birthday routine. At least it holds off the January doldrums a bit longer!

  52. Colleen

    Happy 9th Birthday Monkey! I remember 9 years ago like it was yesterday. How have our boys gotten so big, so fast. I carried Chance to bed the other night..gangly legs and all. :)

  53. Laura

    Nine is lovely. Really, really lovely. My daughter still holds my hand on the way to school but we have these great conversations, and she asks truly interesting questions. Love it. Straddling the child and the tween. Sigh.

  54. Headless Mom

    Happy Day Monkey!

    Mine was 9 about 6 weeks ago…9 years is a long time. He has a project for school this week and was looking for a piece of baby clothing-we found the hospital shirt. Oh my heavens the tinyness of it all.

  55. Debbi

    Happy 9th Birthday Monkey!! May your year be filled with kisses, hugs and sunshine! :-)

  56. Aimee

    Oh, man… I’m late! Happy 9th, Monkey! I hope you have a year that IS as good as that chocolate mint truffle cake SOUNDS.

  57. nil zed

    my oldests birthday is August 1. Birthday party with friends were always a fail b/c people were on vacation or at their dad’s. Or she was. A couple times in elementary school, we had half-birthday parties around Feb 1. Invites specified no presents, but there were games & cakes & once, a sleepover. She says those are really the only birthdays she remembers. Well, & the year my brothers rehearsal dinner was also a surprise 14th birthday party for her. Only family, plus new aunt to be’s family. But, she was old enough to appreciate that new aunt to be was conscious of not stepping on her toes, so was fine with it.

  58. Kim

    I am so glad that you make a big deal out of Monkey’s birthday. Mine was the day following his and I have spent my whole life with my birthday in the shadows of Christmas…first as a child whose parents figured that I had just had Christmas, so what was the big deal, and now as a parent who has to pay for Christmas, which of course means nothing for birthdays that come shortly after. I am not complaining, but it does explain why I make a HUGE deal out of my Buggy’s birthday that falls at the end of Nov. I do not want her to feel the way that I did growing up (and still do).

    Enough whining….Happy Birthday to your Monkey. from one Capricorn to another!!

  59. mamalang

    Ten was hard for me this past year.

    My MIL’s birthday was yesterday, and she asked if we can celebrate next weekend…lol. And my baby boy’s birthday is in December, and I struggle with the guilt of it being shadowed and not as good as his sisters. You did a great job!

    Happy belated birthday Monkey.

  60. carrien

    Hey, my 5 year old asked for Cajun style BBQ shrimp for her birthday dinner. I’m sure I wouldn’t have done that when I was 5. :)

    And you have now added to my list of cakes I must find an excuse to bake and eat sometime. Hey, my birthday is coming up this month. Whooo.

    Happy Birthday Monkey.

  61. Deborah P

    Happy belated birthday, Monkey! The birthday lasts as long as the cake does, so enjoy!!!

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest