In just seven short years this:
Survival International’s website and they have a video showing three kids, J’s age and younger, paddling a canoe on the Amazon – no adult in sight. Now I’m not going to send my kids out to the river alone, but it just drove home how pampered-beyond-necessity kids are in our culture (especially my kids). So when my husband let J take over the task of firework lighting this year, I held my tongue. But stood very close by - probably too close, but that letting go thing is harder than it sounds.
J turned seven on July 4th. For those making a mental note of how good or bad I am, of course, I can’t invite his friends over on a holiday – so I let him choose if he wanted to have cake and ice cream with us or with his friends – and he chose us. Here's the "army" cake he decorated all by his self:
So J knew we were celebrating his birthday and the 4th together (as we do every year), and he picked hamburgers to grill and games to play and I thought life was good until the night before, after dinner, he asked, “Am I going to get to open my presents tomorrow too?”
My husband and I exchanged the universal glance that wordlessly says, “Shit.”
“I guess I’m going shopping,” I said.
He nodded, “I guess I’m cleaning up dinner.’
Later that night as we wrapped presents he said, “We’re so lame – J’s probably the only kid in the world who has to remind his parents to buy him a birthday present.”
On our behalf let me say, we are minimalists in theory and our kids are the only grandchildren on both sides of our family, so they have too much stuff even without our help. Instead of doing the buying-for-them, we’re usually doing the scour-the-house-to-see-what-we-can-get-rid-of routine. For the first several years of a kid’s life that works, but evidently about age 7 they start paying attention to such matters. Plus, my husband and I are not big on fussing over or being fussed over -- so we sometimes forget that 7 year olds really like to be fussed over. But we recovered:
Oh well – all’s well that ends well, as they say, and at the end of the day J said he had a fun birthday. But I’m sure it wasn’t as fun as it has been for me to watch him grow from a crabby, demanding baby to a sensitive, articulate boy. Pretty damn cool how that works. And bittersweet.