Party Like A……
LIKE A 9 YEAR OLD!!!!!! Oh yeah!!!
Last night we celebrated KickTheBall’s ninth year of survival. And by all measures he’s not only surviving, but thriving; Which is a good thing for those of us entrusted with ensuring his survival and thrivation. Go me, right?
Birthdays can be a weird thing (just like how the doors on a DeLorean open).
As a teenager, our birthdays are just mileposts that we’re desperately rushing toward until that magical #16 appears on the horizon and then comes creeping at us at a snail’s pace. That #16 milepost isn’t just another birthday. That milepost is a symbol of freedom. Freedom to do grown up things like drive and go places alone and make up our own minds about where to go and how long to stay and when to leave. But we’ve spent several years looking forward to that 16th birthday and as soon as we have it in our grasp….we start eagerly looking for the next. Because at 18 you can vote and travel the world killing terrorists for your country and it’s about that time that most kids have finished school and are ready (presumably) to leave home and head off for the great unknowns of college life.
After 18 birthdays are something to be proud of. You mature into young adulthood with all the customary rights of passage along the way. And by the time you leave college you’ve made it. You’re a real live grown up. Old enough that it’s weird if you hang out with high school kids and theoretically mature enough to have adult conversations during family holidays. Sometime around your mid-twenties the older folks might even venture to seek your advice on something, and that’s when you know you’ve made it. You’re there, you’ve arrived. Since your early teens you’ve spent every birthday looking forward to this moment. You’re a grown up. Not an old one that goes to sleep at a decent hour or watches the news just to catch the weather. But a smart, funny, fit, swanky kind of grown up that has the whole world in the palm of your hand.
And somewhere along that time is when you realize that you’ve got another birthday coming up. But no, wait, that can’t be. You’ve spent an entire decade of your two and a half decades of life building up to this smart, funny, fit, swanky moment that you’re living in now. It can’t be over yet. You tell yourself that it’s not a big deal, but as the milepost of your third decade of life approaches your birthday anticipation turns to birthday dread.
I spent ten years of my life dreading birthdays. I spent those ten years claiming “I’m turning 24, again”. But my waistline, and hairline, betrayed me. 18yearold Eric’s thoughts of “Hey, I’m looking kinda like a grown up!” as I looked in the mirror were immensely more content than 28yearold Eric’s thoughts of “Oh crap, I’m looking like a grown up!”. The birthdays that crawled towards me in my teens were now careening through my life at a breakneck pace.
At 34 I gave up on claiming 24 (surprising, I’m certain, everyone around me). Birthdays now aren’t as anticipated as they once were, but they’re not dreaded either. In fact, they’re really a bit bittersweet. I couldn’t be more proud of my family and all the boys accomplish every year. But I don’t see the passing of 34 as a milestone for Eric so much as I see it as a milestone for Daddy (who seems to be called more by “Dad” than “Daddy” these days….). I don’t fret so much about my lines, the hair or waist variety, but as birthdays pass I do fret that I’ll never be the Dad to a 9 year old again. I’ve had three nine year olds come up under my tutelage and there’ll be no more. Now it seems that birthdays are just a reminder that my time with the boys is slipping away, quicker than I ever would have expected it to.
Something I observed at KickTheBall’s birthday party was the outlook he had towards not only the party, but toward his birthday in general. He’s not old enough to crave the freedom of sixteen, not confident enough to revel in the twenties and not conceited enough to dread his thirties, forties, and beyond.
He’s just happy to be nine. Not that nine is any different for him than eight. But on his ninth birthday he had donuts AND cupcakes AND went to the movies AND had friends over for a party. He’s just happy for the right now. And there’s something very special about that innocence.
So this year I’m going to work hard to stop craving what’s to come, dreading the inevitable and mourning the past. I’m going to be genuinely happy over donuts for breakfast, time to spend with friends and the little things that make today special….regardless of what yesterday held or tomorrow might hold.
Because I’m resolved to just be happy, for the now. I’m resolved to party like a nine year old.