Smells like cinnamon and big changes

Last night I mixed up and kneaded the dough for the Super Fussy Pain In The Rear But Most Beloved Homemade Cinnamon Rolls so that I wouldn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn this morning. I took a break to call you and your friends downstairs for a bedtime snack of milk and cookies (hey, you may be teenagers, but cookies are cookies), and then you all swarmed back upstairs without even saying goodnight. I felt a small pang, but you were having so much fun, I tried to let it go.

I should’ve known better, though—you all got ready for bed and then you snuck back down to the kitchen to give me a hug. I squeezed you tight, marveling anew at how you’re nearly my height, now, and then demanded a second hug, on account of it was to be the last 13-year-old hug I’d ever get from you. You did a little dance of glee, hugged me again, then ran off with your buddies to a room littered with sleeping bags, video games, monster manuals, and stinky socks. I finished forming the rolls, ready to throw in the oven this morning.

The cinnamon rolls are always the same. They’re a fragrant anchor in a sea of ever-accelerating change, where every year I cannot believe you’re the same kid who had a birthday just one short year before.

Last year, I couldn’t wrap my brain around you being a teenager. I mean, how was that even possible? (As you would say: “MATH! How does it work??”) You grew and changed so much between 12 and 13, it took my breath away.

Today you’re 14, and while I made my peace with your teenager-dom a few months ago, your pace hasn’t slowed. I’m still trying to catch up. Remember that little kid who once begged me never to make him go back to school again? Remember when you felt like everything was harder for you and you’d never figure it out? On Monday you’ll start back at public school, and if you’re nervous at all, it’s overshadowed by your sheer joy about all of the stuff you’re looking forward to doing. You’re ready. (Heck, you’re more ready than I am, but that’s a different story altogether.) You walked in there like you owned the place a few weeks ago, made polite small-talk with your teachers, and then immediately began grilling the teacher your sister told you would be willing to help you form a D&D club. [Note to self: Don’t attempt to stand between you and a mission.]

When your seamless school enrollment turned into an endless string of hours of testing and hoops to jump through and plans and changes and adjustments, my frustration grew, while you kept assuring me that it was okay. “He shouldn’t have to take all of these tests!” I complained to Otto, one night, when the six hours of testing you’d already done was suddenly deemed “not enough” and you were scheduled for more. You overheard, and sidled up to me and patted my shoulder.

“It’s okay, Mom,” you said. “I don’t mind. It’s not a big deal.”

That’s what 14 (or, at the time, nearly-14) looks like, I guess. Suddenly the kid who used to shriek, “NO NO NO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN!” at the slightest variation in expectation has turned all zen and unflappable.

So this morning you all scarfed down cinnamon rolls and played more video games and everything was the same but somehow different. I tried to stay out of your way, let you do your thing without your mom bugging you, and after a while you came up to tell me that last year you had turned “thirt” because I didn’t want you to be a teenager, so maybe today you could turn “fourte.” You explained that it got you a wee bit closer to the teen part, but not quite all the way there, but also that if you turned “fourtee” that would sound like “forty” and be all wrong. So how about fourte (pronounced “fort-EH”)?

“Maybe forte,” I mused. “That would fit.” I smiled at your puzzled expression. “Do you know what forte means?”

“Yeah,” you said. “It’s… a thing… you do. Right?”

“It’s a thing you’re really, REALLY good at,” I said. “I think maybe you’re going to be really good at being fourteen, so forte is kind of perfect.”

You laughed. “Nope, that wouldn’t have a U in it. Not forte, fort-EH!” Delighted with your sound reasoning, you were off again, unaware of just how amazing your comfort in your own skin really is.

It’s just as well; if you understood how incredible you’ve become in your 14th year, how brave and thoughtful you are these days, you might not believe it.

Happy birthday, Monkey. Here’s to high school, to cinnamon rolls, to fourteen, to you just rocking out being YOU. Just remember that you will always be my little boy, no matter how old you get. Now please give me a hug and go shave off that mustache.


  1. Alison C

    Happy birthday Monkey!

  2. Jen B

    Happy Fourte, Monkey!!!! Good luck at high school next week!

  3. Anna Marie

    Happy birthday Monkey!!

  4. Mary Fran

    Excuse me, there’s something in my eye. *sniff*

  5. Mandy

    Rainstorm on my face too! Happy birthday, Monkey!

  6. The Other Leanne

    Happy Birthday, Monkey! You’re not only growing “up”, you’re growing “into” a mensch.

  7. Mame

    Happy Birthday, Monkey, here’s to a great year!

  8. Jeanie

    Awww, happy birthday, Monkey!!

  9. Kate

    Happy Birthday! Best of luck at your new school! :)

  10. Pam

    Awwww. Happy Birthday, Monkey. Make the most of your lovely mother.

  11. Heather

    Happy birthday, Monkey! Today is my eldest sister’s birthday as well, and my dear friend just had a brand new baby girl a few hours ago, so it is a very, very good day to have a birthday!

  12. Ali

    You’re so much better at “boys getting bigger” than I am. A couple of days ago, I had to hold back tears when my 8yo told he preferred the plain band-aids to cartoon characters.

  13. Ellen

    I love the way you write! And, happy birthday to your forte! I could barely handle my 25 year old’s birthday last month. WTF? I’m not even 25!

  14. Katherine

    Happy Birthday to Monkey! I can tell you’re going to rock that high school experience. It’s hard to believe you’re getting so big, just like my own younger son is going to be, gasp, 15 at the end of this month. I’m not ready!

  15. Karen R

    Happy birthday to Monkey! This is your year! And Mir — those overnight refrigerator rises are the Best Thing Ever. :-)

  16. Bob

    Happy Fourt-EH Birthday, Monkey! I’ve been trying to remember how old you were when I first “met” you. If it wasn’t before you started grade school, it wasn’t much later. I’ve watched you grow into a terrific young man. Before you know it, you’ll be graduating and I’ll once again be wondering where the time went. I’m looking forward seeing to the man you are becoming.

  17. CuriousParty

    I forgot that Monkey and my monkey have the same birthday… A few years apart ;) she’s not chronologically a teenager yet, anyway. Happy Birthday to all!

  18. Jen

    Forte also means loud, in musical terms. ;) LOL! You’ve been warned.
    Also, happy birthday Monkey!

  19. Lynda M O

    Unbelievable that he’s having a birthday again already.
    Wow !~!

    Happy forte, young man. You’re growing all cool and thanks for letting us see a bit of it thru your mama’s eyes and keyboard.

  20. NTE

    Happy Birthday to Monkey and Fingers Crossed for a smooth transition when school starts!

  21. Chuck

    Go Monkey! Happy birthday, and congrats on finding your Forte.

  22. Karen

    If only you could have read this post a few years ago, just to let you know.

    Truly, it’s a beautiful thing.

  23. jodifur

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

  24. addy

    Happy Birthday Monkey!

  25. Chris

    Happy Birthday Monkey! Hope it was a great one.

  26. TC

    I’m behind, but the sentiment’s the same: Happy birthday, Monkey! But tell your mom that I’m refusing to listen to her about the changes from 13 to 14, since I’m currently watching my own monkey sidle ever closer to 13 (three weeks from today!) and I don’t want to hear anything about that growing up thing lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala. :-)

  27. Genevieve

    Happy belated four-te to Monkey, and congrats on starting high school! In a month, he’ll be all settled and it will be wonderful. Such an amazing young man he’s turned out to be.

  28. Rachel

    Happy Birthday Monkey! I’m in denial over the whole teenager thing, my youngest has his golden birthday on January 14. Wait, what? (see: denial)

  29. liz

    Happy Birthday, Monkey!!!

    Recipe for the cinnamon rolls, please.

    • Mir

      I use this recipe, though I just mix it up in my stand mixer, let rise until doubled, then roll out (I don’t have a bread machine). I can’t eat them anymore (mmm… gluteny!) but they are a family favorite.

  30. Lucinda

    Happy Birthday Monkey. He’s come a long way! Hooray for all of you. But especially him.

  31. Flea

    I love this Monkey story. :) They grow up too slowly and too quickly, all at once.

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