Still my Small Boy

It seems wrong, somehow, to call you Small Boy when you are all of eleven whole years old, but I’m not ready to give it up. I’m not ready to stop seeing the shadow of the toddler version of you—all dimples and roundness and wide grin—every time I look at you, either. Sorry. And I am definitely not ready to give up your standard retort to “Hello, Small Boy,” which is—of course—“Hello, Medium Mommy.”

Ten felt like a milestone to me. Eleven feels like a ticking time bomb; the countdown to middle school has begun, and you are still my small boy, still so far away from being ready for this next phase. I worry. A lot. And I know sometimes I don’t hide it very well. It’s only because I wish I could make the world an easier place for you, even though I know I can’t, and even though I know that if I could, you wouldn’t be the same you.

And you, Small Boy, are pretty awesome.

For everything I cannot fix or make the way you want it, there are a dozen smalls ways in which you are perfectly easy to please. Homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast? That I can do. And your reaction is worth the early alarm and pre-dawn kneading: You come downstairs with your hair sticking up in three different directions, still sleepy and warm, first folding into my lap for a snuggle, and then dancing around the kitchen while peering into the oven. A beater of frosting to lick is like winning the lottery, and when it’s finally time to tuck into breakfast you rave about how yummy it is and always, always remember to say “thank you.”

Cleaning out your room starts as drudgery and quickly turns into inspiration: Wouldn’t this friend enjoy that book? Might some children who don’t have many toys like to have this item? You are quick to suggest ways to share yourself, and your delight over having everything tidied up is matched only by your confusion when I cannot resist asking WHY it cannot STAY this way after we’re done.

You coax the dog up onto your bed, then whisper secrets into her ears while carefully rubbing her belly. You take her outside and scoop her food and throw her ball as many times as she’ll let you. Sometimes—in frustration—you’ll insist that the dog is the only one who really loves you, and Licorice will quickly take her cue and lick your face until you can’t stay mad.

This year you’ve taken steps forward and steps back and I never know from day to day or even minute to minute whether I’ll get regression or insight. The other day at Ikea you launched yourself on a rant that I felt sure would lead to a complete screaming meltdown, and I kept asking you to please stop and you kept on and finally I said, “I NEED YOU TO STOP TALKING NOW. You are hurting my feelings. Please just STOP.” You glared at me but closed your mouth, finally turning away but still fuming. We stood there, you and me, and I wondered if this was how it will always be, with you—a challenging outing leading to a not-unexpected struggle which ultimately becomes a random lashing-out at whomever’s handy (usually me).

Tears stung my eyes just as you leaned into me, ever so slightly, and said, “Sorry. I’m cranky.”

I kissed your head and gave you a squeeze and whispered, “I know. Thank you.”

“I love you,” you said, giving me a full-on bear hug, right there, right in the middle of Ikea, not caring who saw.

You are still such a small boy, with such a big heart.

Today you have delighted in your special breakfast, your presents, the impending joy of not only having a friend come over, but having “all these cool things we can build!”, and later, special dinner, and chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.

I am so grateful for the things I can do for you that make you happy. I’m so grateful that today is a good day. I’m grateful that you still fit in my lap, that you still laugh when I wipe frosting off your nose.

I’m grateful for you, Small Boy. Every day. Even on the hard days. Don’t forget. Even on the hard days, it’s not just the dog who loves you. I promise.

Happy birthday, my Monkey.


  1. s

    holy tears and its not even love thursday. happy birthday Monkey – what a tribute!

  2. Midj

    Oh, Mir. Having trouble swallowing past this huge lump in my throat. Monkey is as lucky to have you as you are to have him… Happy Birthday, Small Boy!

  3. mar

    Happy Birthday, Monkey – indeed!

    May your year bring your lots of beaters to lick frosting off of, lots of face washings from your dog, and many, many happy Lego building sessions!

  4. mar

    By the way, my own “small boy” (and yes, I still do call him that!) will turn 15 soon, and is almost 5’10” – but will always be my “small boy”, no matter how tall he gets or how old he gets! Tell Monkey he’s stuck with it! ;-)

  5. liz

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  6. Lady M

    Happy Birthday to your boy!

  7. Tracy

    Jeez, Mir. Now, I have to reapply my make-up. How lucky is Small Boy to have such an awesome Momma who loves him to bottom of her core! This is an awesome tribute that when Small Boy becomes Big Boy, he will cherish for the rest of his life. Happy Birthday, Monkey!!!!!

  8. Katie in MA

    Thank goodness I remember to read with tissues handy on the kids’ birthdays.

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!! 11 is such a great year! I hope it brings more peace and happiness and lots of magic (even if it doesn’t come with an actual invite to Hogwarts).

  9. Beth

    Wonderful tribute!

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

    and also Mir, please start to put a warning when you’ll be making us cry. :)

  10. Beachgal

    Happy Birthday Monkey. You are one lucky small boy. Who will grow to an even luckier man.

  11. sassymonkey

    Happy birthday most specialist of special Monkeys. :)

  12. Jessee C.

    Happy Birthday to your small boy and a very Happy Mommiversary to you!

  13. Mare Martell

    Happy Birthday Monkey!
    Happy Anniversary Mir!
    Have another tissue, Mare!

  14. Dsilkotch

    Happy Happy Birthday Monkey!!

  15. Jamie

    Happy birthday, Monkey! Hope it’s a fantabulous time!

  16. suzie

    He is growing up with so many memories of love. Lucky boy!

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  17. el-e-e

    happy birthday to Monkey and his Mama! Celebrate a lot!!

  18. Bibi

    Happy birthday to your monkey!!!

  19. Ruth

    Beautiful; Happy Birthday to a very lucky boy and a lucky mom! (I can relate as my 11-1/2 year old is on that same road.) Thank you!

  20. Lylah

    Happy birthday to Monkey!

  21. Rebecca

    You are the perfect mom for this perfect boy.

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  22. RuthWells

    Okay, I’m easy to tears these days, so — could you please preface these posts with a warning label? What a wonderful Monkey.

  23. Em

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!!

  24. Lynda M O

    Happy Happy Elevenses to Monkey !~!~ I remember eleven and it was great; hope your year is too. Birthdays make me happy-no matter whose day it its. Thanks for having a Birthday today-I will be Happy and Remember You all day long.

  25. Frank

    It is posts such as these that really make me hope that someday he will be able to handle reading the entries on this blog…. and that someday you will feel comfortable enough with that idea to give him your blessing to do so.

  26. Debbi

    Wow, that made me cry. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MONKEY!!! May your day be super special and filled with lots of love and happiness.

    My “small boy” is 10 and I still enjoy the snuggling and kisses too. I snuggle with him before he goes to sleep and the other day he asked if I could sit on the edge of the bed instead of laying with him. I was sad at first thinking he was growing up and didn’t want me there, but he said, thanks mama, it makes me feel small when you sit on the bed and I love being your little boy. Boy did I cry :-)

    Mir, Monkey is so lucky to have you!! <3

  27. Kristi

    Happy Birthday, Monkey! You’ve got fans in many places!

  28. 12tequilas

    Mine are 5 and almost-8 and I call them both “baby boy.” I don’t have to stop, do I?

    Happy birthday, Monkey!

  29. Mom

    Such a loving, caring Mama. Such a sweet, loving boy.

    I’m so very proud of you both.

  30. Crista

    Happy Birthday Monkey! I hope its a great year for you!

  31. Mary

    Happy Birthday to Monkey!!!!!!

  32. bob

    Happy Birthday, Monkey.

  33. Laura

    sooo glad I am lazy and haven’t gotten around to mascara yet! Beautiful.

  34. Melissa

    Happy Birthday Monkey!!

  35. dad

    Your lovely post today has brought back memories from many years ago when I experienced the same anxieties about whether you were ready for the next phase…whatever it was. Or perhaps more accurately, was I ready. The transitions from infant to toddler to child to tween…. They are all difficult, all different and should all be cherished. It’s our job to guide and worry.

    I’ll tell you a secret. You turned out great. You have exceeded my expectations. I suspect Monkey will exceed yours.

    Happy birthday small boy from large grandpa who loves you.

  36. Heather

    Aww happy birthday, Monkey! Also, Wahhhhh! You are such a beautiful and evocative writer, particularly when it comes to your kids.

  37. Otto

    I can hear the Small Boy and his friend, rumbling around in the yard, chirping and barking and laughing. It’s a Very Good Day to be a Small Boy. I don’t know any more than anyone else about what’s coming next, but it’s an E-ticket ride I wouldn’t miss for the world, I’m sure.

    Here’s to 12 months of 11 that’s going to be better than 10 ever dreamed of being.

    -medium otto

  38. elz

    You are the insightful and loving mommy I’m striving to be. How useful for me that you share your storeis, lessons, and tips. What a lovely message to your son. He is lucky to have you & vice versa. Happy Birthday Monkey, may all your dreams come true.

  39. Rachel

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

    Beautiful post Mir, and great comment Otto. Monkey’s lucky to have you both. =)

  40. Jenny

    Happy birthday to your sweet Monkey!

  41. Sharon

    Have a wonderful birthday, Monkey!!! Hope that this is the best year for all of you yet!

  42. My Kids Mom

    See? Dessert!

    And, less metaphorically, I strongly support the cinnamon buns for breakfast idea (but I’m a wimp and would wait til the weekend!)

  43. Karen R.

    Happy birthday to Monkey! Now, Mir, you need to read up on refrigerator rising. I make my cinnamon or sticky buns the day before, then put them into the refrigerator for an overnight final rise. The next morning all I have to do is stick them in the oven and bake.

    It is a win-win. The long, cool rise gives the dough a chance to develop lots of extra flavor, and I’m not up at 4:00 AM making bread.

  44. Crisanne

    Happiest of days to Monkey and all of you as you celebrate your Small Boy!!

  45. J from Ireland

    Oh my Mir, your beautiful words have the tears rolling down my face again. Happy Birthday Monkey, may this year be a good one for you sweetie.
    ps I have a small irish boy who turned 11yrs old this day last week too!!

  46. Another Dawn

    Geeze. These posts should come with a tissue alert. :)

    He’s a lucky small boy. And you’re a lucky medium mom!

    Oh. Also. You wouldn’t consider adopting a 54-year old, would you? I could really use a homemade cinammon roll for breakfast from time to time.



  47. Monique

    A very Happy Birthday to my birthday sharing buddy!

    Wishing, hoping, and praying for a blessed and wonderful year. God bless!

  48. Rebecca

    I’m crying with the rest of the commenters! Beautiful! Happy Birthday to Monkey!

  49. TC

    Happy birthday, Monkey!

  50. cohmomto3

    Tears welling up… Happy, Happy Birthday to an amazing boy. And Happy “Birth” day to you, Mir.

  51. Karen


    Mir,you’re a beautiful Mom. Happy Birthday to small boy. Trust me.. he will ALWAYS be Small Boy in some way, to you.

  52. Headless Mom

    This was lovely! I hope the day turned out swimmingly for all.

  53. Kayt

    How the time has flown! I could swear that Monkey was like, eight.

    Happy happy HAPPY birthday Monkey!

  54. MamaChristy


  55. Veronica

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

  56. Flea

    Wait. What? Eleven? No! Monkey’s eight! He’s not allowed to be eleven! That would make Chickadee *takes off shoes* … dang. I don’t know. But seriously? Eleven?

    Well happy birthday, Monkey! Hugs to you, Mir. :)

  57. Lara

    Aww …sniff … sniff … That was lovely Mir. Happy, happy birthday to Monkey!

  58. Megan

    Oh dear. My Small Boy just went out the door, car keys in his hand, to drop off his sister (because he likes to, because she needed him). He graduates high school this year and has big plans that, naturally, don’t include me at all but are all about testing those new, terribly un-tried wings of his. He is 6′ easily, and don’t ask me about more because right now I don’t want to know, but he still is willing to fold as much of that long and lanky frame as possible into a hug – a family hug as often as he can get us in reach of those impossibly enormous arms. We are a wink and a nudge away from adulthood these days and I’m not sure how that happened as I’m sure, I’m positive, that yesterday he had dimples and terribly wicked blue eyes (okay… he still has those) and was asking for more Legos and wondering if we could go out for just one more bike ride.

    I’m glad you have a Monkey that is still, at least now and then, a Small Boy. I know there are moments when the ground opens up in front of you, but that Monkey, that loving, caring, generous Monkey is still there, still Your Boy… and I truly believe that he always will be.

    Just like mine.

  59. Kailani

    Happy birthday, Monkey!
    What a glorious day to be a small boy.
    Celebrate, love, laugh and eat dessert first…
    You are loved!

  60. Chuck

    Making delicious goodies you can’t eat for your kid’s birthday automatically qualifies you for the Mom Hall Of Fame. Happy birthday, Monkey!

  61. Steph

    Oh, and now I’m crying. Thinking of my own Small Boy, and when he’ll be a Big Boy. But just now, I will go over and give him another hug. Lovely post. Happy Birthday, Monkey.

  62. Cele

    I’ll come back and comment more after the mascara quits running down my face.

    Happy Birthday Monkey.
    Happy Birthday.

  63. Emily

    Just beautiful. Thanks for sharing your Small Boy with us all.

  64. Alison C

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!

  65. Brigitte

    Aw, I always know these posts will lead to wet eyes for me, but I can’t stop reading them anyway. One small worry you can cross off your list: just keep calling him small boy for now. Your literal-minded Monkey will tell you himself when he’s graduated to “medium boy” and you’re “little mommy.”

  66. addy

    Happy Birthday Monkey! Enjoy your elevens.

  67. Angie

    Happy birthday Monkey!

  68. Aimee

    Oh, happy birthday, Monkey!

    Darnit, I need a Kleenex.

  69. amy

    So beautiful! The tears are right at the corners of my eyes and my heart is pounding. Happy Birthday to Monkey!

  70. laura

    Wow! Age 11 in 2011. How very cool!!

    Happy Birthday Mir’s Monkey! Happy Day to you too Mir!

  71. StacyQ

    You have so many issues I haven’t ever dealt with, and I feel inadequate to comment… but the love you have for your kids rings so true and it hits me in that spot right behind me eyes that makes them leak a little… You write beautifully and I envy your ability to express things so well.

    Thanks for sharing.

  72. Pamela L

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!! It’s a great day for a small boy to celebrate ~

  73. sica

    That was so beautiful!

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