Really? Weren’t we just out at the swing set as he begged to be pushed faster and higher? Wasn’t he practicing his lines for the first grade play just last week? What about the hours and hours we spent sieging the Playmobil castle?
But he is an adult. Really.
He’s gainfully employed at the car wash, his room and laundry are cleaned without a word from me, he both arranges his viola lessons and does all his practicing, his schoolwork and lunches are his own.
And most of all, wiser than I was, he acknowledges that he still needs help. Ben reminds me firmly and often that he still needs me. He needs me to stay engaged and interested and available. He’s witnessed every stage of my evolution as a parent– he made me a parent– and he recognizes my ebb and flow of energy, my tendency to become distracted by passions and projects. It’s a constant refrain, “We need you Mom.” “Pay attention, Mom.” “Teach Gabe and Mary, the same things you taught me.”
The oldest child defines a family in many ways and I find it especially sweet that Ben was born on Valentine’s Day– he set a precedent for kindness and openly expressed love. There could be no better birthday than Valentine’s for a child. It’s not such a big holiday, like Christmas, that you are overlooked. A Valentine’s birthday means a party at school on your birthday, sweets and a decorated aisle at every store. Even this year, as a senior, Ben received a stack of Val-o-grams because everyone remembers his unusual birthday. He embraces the love with an assortment of heart shaped everything; you can catch him wearing cupid and heart adorned boxers year round.
We celebrated his birthday with an excess of chocolate and candy and our nearly-perfected butterdream cookies. Cruising the neighborhood, we doorbell ditched two dozen houses as we spread the love. Poor Ben, ended up on the couch with a case of strep throat.
It is a bittersweet birthday. How can I feel anything but proud of my boy? But how heartbreaking that my time with him, as a child at home, is almost over.
Happily, he’ll always need me. At least a little.