A decade of exuberance

By Mir
January 4, 2010

Last night we agreed that you could wake the rest of us up at 7:00, if you liked, and even your sister agreed. You went to bed swearing you would never be able to fall asleep. You did, of course, and I was still enjoying the view from behind my eyelids when you thumped on my door at 6:20 this morning.

“Come in,” I called. You bounced in and I threw the covers back and invited you to hop in and cuddle. “What happened to waiting until 7:00?” I asked, whispering, hoping Otto might still be asleep.

“Oh,” you said, unbothered. “There’s some stuff on my dresser and I couldn’t really read my clock. I guess that’s why Chickie told me to get out of her room.”

I pulled you close under the covers and tried not to laugh. “That’s okay,” I said. “Happy birthday! Let’s just rest a little bit.”

For about twenty minutes we dozed… or, at least, I dozed inbetween twitches and bounces from you, and finally I said we should go ahead and get up. We left the bedroom and you glanced at the stairs and then grabbed my arm, full of urgency. “Were they in order?” you asked.

“Were what in order?” I countered. (How many times have I told you that I cannot possibly speak coherently until I’ve had a cup of coffee, son?)

“The presents!” you said, flinging your arms wide. “Were they in a specific ORDER? Because I didn’t see the one at the top of the stairs and I hit it and it hit another one and then I had to try to put a few of them back and I didn’t know if they were in order.”

Again, I tried not to laugh. As we had done for your sister on her tenth birthday, there was a line of ten presents down the stairs, snaking through the dining room to the kitchen. You had been instructed not to open presents without us, but of course you would assume there was an order to it. If you had been in charge of the packages, there would’ve been. So I assured you they were in no particular order, and I headed to the kitchen in search of coffee while you gathered up the spoils of double digits to dump at your place at the table.

Otto appeared, and then Chickadee, and then it was time to witness the grand unwrapping. You sang and bounced and chattered as you discovered each new wonder—Lego sets, games, a puzzle, new tools for your toolbox, books—and the three of us sat there with you and smiled back. Your joy was, as always, contagious.

Nine didn’t turn out to be that stupendous of a year, Monkey. I’m sorry about that. Oh, there were good parts—new friends, new experiences, and a new dog. Some really awesome things happened this year, to be sure. But this is also the year we’ll look back on and talk about quietly. We’ll call it The Hard Year, probably, or maybe you’ll call it The Year I Didn’t Want To Be Different. I have some other names for it, but Otto generally doesn’t let me say them in front of anyone under 18.

So nine was hard. But this morning you showed me that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can stifle the Monkey I’ve adored for ten years now. Your joy at turning ten, at having your family watch you unwrap presents, at receiving a pile of items that need figuring out and putting together, it outweighs all the crapitude you’ve endured lately. (No, crapitude is not a word, and you can’t say it until you’re 14.) You live in the moment—it’s your biggest blessing and your biggest hurdle. But when life is good to you, I can’t see how anyone could be around you and feel anything other than giddy.

We went and had lunch with your teacher today, a special birthday treat on the last day of vacation. You bounced and chatted and smiled and nibbled and it wasn’t until about ten minutes before it was time to go that you said, “I wish I wasn’t different.”

Without missing a beat she said the same thing I’ve been telling you: “Different is great.”

We talked a little and you snapped back into the moment, into carefree enjoyment of the Right Now, and we adults smiled at you and at each other, enjoying our slice of time with you and your goofiness.

Ten is going to be your year, Monkey. You are you. You used to know that, and embrace it unselfconsciously. Then nine came along and made you doubt yourself. You lost your footing there for a while, but you’ve got it back.

You are strong. You are joyful. You are different, and that means your path will be different, and it also means sometimes you will wish it wasn’t. But different is awesome. And I am so proud of the boy you are right now and the man you will become.


You are ten. You are tremendous. You are my goofy Monkey-boy, my brainiac, my absent-minded professor, and I love you every moment of every day, every inch of you. Different, same, exasperating, gratifying; all of you. Always.

Happy birthday, my sweet Monkey.

Look out, world.


  1. liz

    happy birthday, sweet, wonderful monkey!!!

  2. mamalang

    That is a spectacular birthday post. Different is hard as a kid, but as an adult, you learn how awesome it is. I’m glad he has adults in his life that know that.

    Happy Birthday.

  3. Jean

    Happy Birthday Monkey!!!!! I hope your day was fabulous :)

    PS…yummy pancakes :)

  4. The Other Leanne

    (nice, Mir, I’m weeping at my desk here)
    Happy Birthday, Monkey. Everyone who was ever great was great because he was different.

  5. Megan

    Oh the absolute wonder of double digits. Do you remember how OLD ten was, right up to the very minute it was you and even then you had to stop and remember that you, you were TEN. It’s a magical year – and Monkey is a magical kid. Happy Birthday – and dude, I’m pretty sure there’s a super-hero out there… Captain Different maybe (’cause the Duke of Different just doesn’t cut it), who has a cape and a tool belt and some pretty fantastic powers, even if his alter-ego still has to remember to turn in his homework.

  6. Amelia

    Oh, sweet Monkey is a ten-ager! Best wishes to him…and to you all.

  7. Tracy

    Oh how great 10 will be! I’m happy for you Monkey. The “hard” year is behind you and the new year is going to be just that…NEW! Happy Birthday, dude!

  8. kris

    Happy Birthday Monkey!! 10 will be a great year, I’m sure of it!

  9. Pam

    Happy Birthday, Monkey, and welcome to the world of double digits! And listen to your sainted mother, she’s so right (and says it so beautifully): different is the best. Life would be SO DULL if everyone were the same.

  10. Melissa

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

  11. Kayt

    Oh, the tears you cause me! I wasn’t Monkey Different, I was Kayt Different, and I distinctly remember coming into it at ten. I’m cheering him on every time you post about him. And he deserves and awesome year.

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

  12. Jenn C.

    Happy birthday to Monkey!

  13. Karen

    Thank GOD we’re ALL different… can you imagine a world without “different”? B-O-R-I-N-G.

    Happy Birthday, Monkey. If you’re a lego man, have you ever seen the giant lego statues at Disney World? Something you gotta see… they must have taken someone a gazillion hours to make.

  14. StephLove

    Happy Birthday, dear Monkey. Happy Birthday to you. Here’s to a great year.

    p.s. Do all those news reports about the 00s being the worst decade since the Depression annoy you, Mir? They do me, since both of my kids were born in that decade. How can the decade that produced Monkey (and my two) be the worst? It can’t, obviously.

  15. TC

    Happy birthday, Monkey! Double digits is serious business. I’m sure you’ll wear it well.

  16. jess

    Happy end-of-your-first-decade birthday, Monkey! I just celebrated the end of my third decade a few days ago, and I love how the round numbers feel when you are finishing out a decade of life. :) I hope 10 is a wonderful, fabulous, outstanding, fantastic year!


  17. Mom24@4evermom

    I can so relate. I hope ten is a wonderful year for Monkey. My little guy tells me all the time that nine is not as good as eight. Makes me sad. Hopefully ten will be better for him as well.

  18. Crista

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

  19. Jen Singer

    As a post-Christmas birthday girl, I must speak up and say HURRAY for celebrating 10 in such a big and wonderful way. I can only hope I have 43 presents leading to pancakes for me this Friday.

    Nicely written.

  20. BethR

    TEN??? How on EARTH did Monkey hit 10? Wasn’t he just 7, like, a week ago??? (and if I feel that way, how do you feel? :) )

    Happy, happy birthday Monkey! Enjoy being yourself. It’s worth it.

  21. Dawn

    Welcome to the double digits, dude! Happiest of happy birthdays to the best Monkey around. (Geddit?)

    Nine, I think is full of the suckitude (and no, that’s not a word, and no, he can’t say it until he’s 14) for most people. I don’t know why nine is that way, but it just is.

    It is the different people of our world who make all the best discoveries.

  22. Jamie

    Awww, happy birthday, MONKEY! What a great birthday letter.

  23. annette

    Wow. I didn’t realize until now how close you were to having the first new baby of the millineum. I mean, how many could have been born between 1/1/00 and 1/4/00? :)

    Happy Birthday Monkey! Wished we lived closer so my 10 year old “different” boy could build things with you! He built the TajMahal over Christmas break!

  24. Jen B


    Happy Happy HAPPY Tenth, Monkey!!! Even people you don’t know up in Michigan love you!!! And “different” is AWESOME! EVERYBODY’S DIFFERENT!!

  25. Beth

    Mir — that was a FANTASTIC birthday post.

    Monkey — 9 sucks for lots of kids. They just don’t tell you that. 10 will be FANTASTICALLY TERRIFICALLY Wonderful for you! Enjoy being you and having the people around you LOVE you because — well, because YOU ARE YOU. It’s the best reason someone can ever have to love you!

  26. Headless Mom

    Lovely. I hope Monkey had a stupendous day. Every boy turning 10 should!

  27. Heather

    Aw happy birthday Monkey!

  28. jennyonthespot

    Wow. My heart is in my throat. So precious.

  29. Kim

    Happy birthday, Monkey!

    Beautiful post, Mir. You made my heart tear up.

  30. J from Ireland

    Happy Birthday Monkey. 10 will be your year.
    My youngest son turned 10 on the 28th of December and he too is delighted to be in the double digits.

  31. Ironic Mom

    Ten presents on the stairs and pancakes? What a fantastic idea (which I will steal in five years – uh oh, I have twins, so that’ll mean 20 presents if my math is any good). Your post was beautiful. Happy “birth” day to you.

  32. Sandra Leigh

    Happy 10th birthday, Monkey – and please tell your mom to warn us when she’s going to make us cry, okay? ;>)

  33. Monique

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!
    Happy Birthday, Me!
    Yea for us! We’re birthday buddies!
    I remember turning 10, I felt so grow up. Here’s wishing many more to my birthday friend!

  34. Alison C

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!!

  35. Nicki

    Tears are flowing like rivers. (Wonder if they will lead to weight loss…over time?)

    Congrats on the double digits, Monkey! You’re going to have an amazing year!

  36. Brigitte

    I love your birthday posts for your children, they will be something wonderful for them to see when they are adults. Wish I could come up with something so beautiful for my own little wiggle worm!

  37. Beachgal

    a bit late, but Happy Birthday Monkey!!!

  38. Samantha

    That was beautiful! Happy Birthday Monkey!

  39. Sharon

    That was beautiful Mir! Happy Birthday Monkey!

  40. Em

    I would be so sad if Monkey was the same as everybody else. I love hearing stories about different, special, extraordinary Monkey. I hope his birthday was all of those wonderful things he is. Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  41. S

    Oh my. Good thing the mascara isn’t on yet this morning. What an amazing tribute to your son. And I am stunned at how many parallels to my son there are (altho he’s younger)…I dread a year 9 for my guy as I can see the same path you describe in our future. I only wish I handled his exuberence with as much grace as you! I hope 10 is the positive one you forecast – and different IS good!

  42. Jan in Norman, OK

    An exchange that I remember from an episode of West Wing, even though I’m not sure which characters had this conversation:

    “Never doubt that one person can change the world. You know why?”

    “Because that’s the only thing that ever has.”

    It’s the different people in the world who step up to challenges and new ideas and move us forward. Those crowds of “the same” can only follow along, bland and sheep-like.

  43. Suzy Voices

    This is so sweet!! My little man turns 13 in six days, and this made me teary. Happy Birthday Monkey!!

  44. RuthWells

    Beautifully put. And so familiar. Ten is a transformative year for boys, in my experience. May it be so for Monkey.

  45. Karate Mom

    Awww! Will you be MY mom and write sweet things about ME on my birthday? I love reading your birthday posts and my own mom doesn’t have a blog. Heck, she can’t even figure out how to comment on MY blog, let alone run one of her own.

  46. Half Assed Kitchen

    Lordy, what a sweet post, Mir. And Happy 10th to Monkey! Whenever my kids say that someone or something is weird. I say, “Everyone’s weird. We’re all weird in our own way.” Because it’s true. And I guess different is just another way of saying weird. :) Normal is boring. Not to mention that it doesn’t exist.

  47. Aimee

    *sniffle* Happiest birthday, Monkey! I think your mom is right — 10’s going to be your year!

  48. Heidi


  49. Katie in MA

    Happy, happy Birthday, Monkey! The entire internet is reveling in the joy that is you. We are all celebrating YOU today, our superhero who brings us the magic of Happy. :) Here’s to the year of 10, the year of Monkey, and the year of Happy!

  50. Kelly

    Happy Birthday Monkey!!!!!!!!!

  51. Burgh Baby


    Tell Monkey happy birthday from me!

  52. Wendy 2

    Happy Birthday Monkey!!!!

  53. Debbi

    Wiping away tears so I can see enough to type…

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY MONKEY!!! You will make a wonderful adult someday because you have the BEST MOM EVER!!! Hugs sweetie!!

  54. Lady M

    Happy Birthday to your wonderful boy!

  55. sassymonkey

    Aw. I didn’t get online much yesterday (stupid winter crud!). Happy, happy belated birthday Monkey. Different is awesome.

  56. daysgoby

    Happy, Happy Birthday, sweet Monkey. This is going to be your year! Ten is magical.

  57. Jaime

    happy birthday Monkey!

  58. Julie in Austin

    Hippo Birdie Two Ewes! (Stolen from the Boynton books) I hope you have a fantastic day and a joyous year, little Monkey!

  59. Mare

    Happy Birthday Monkey.

    Mir, I admire you even more when you allow us into your world.

    Thank you.

    Hi Otto and Chickie

  60. Melanie

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

    When my own Monkey was your age he didn’t want to be different either, but he is 16 now and has discovered that different IS awesome and he wouldn’t trade his differences for anything.

    One more thing… Do you know the dryer commercial where the kid stacks a bunch of things carefully on top of a spinning dryer and the tower doesn’t fall because the dryer is so vibrationless (let’s pretend that’s a word). I don’t know why, but every time I see that commercial that boy reminds me of Monkey… which is so funny, since I only know of Monkey through what you’ve written on this blog.. but I guess if there are any blanks to be filled in,I fill them in so he turns into the tower building dryer boy. Just thought it was interesting and wanted to share.

  61. Aubri

    I’m late on this, but happy, happy birthday Monkey! Different becomes fantastic, it does… from all of us hanging out on “The Spectrum” (can I just say, I hate that phrase?) in my family, embrace it, roll with it, and rock it little man!

    Ten is your year!

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