A Great Year in the Books:: The Bittersweetness of Birthdays

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“Oh, how I wish you could be nine forever, Pooh Bear!” I exclaimed as I laid next to my boy.

It was the night before his tenth birthday, and I knew that when he woke up the next morning he’d be a year older (though technically not until 7:55 that evening). It was a wish that would never be granted, though I really meant it.

In almost every way, nine was fine. In fact, it was more than fine. It’s been my favorite year of parenting. I really like sleep, so the newborn years weren’t my jam. He was a cute baby, but babies don’t really “do” anything (even though you tell everyone that they’re a step away from inventing the next best thing).

It’s often said that once they start walking or talking that the fun begins, but for us that was when we started with diagnoses and therapies. And honestly? The years leading up to nine were a blur of appointments, meetings and trying to make the pieces fit to hit our stride as a family. But nine?

Nine was so different…and so kind to us.

It wasn’t without its faults, but the year was filled with so many great memories. Between school and friends, Taekwondo and soccer, holidays and vacations, nine was certainly a year to remember. He was old enough to entertain himself, but young enough to still want his mom sometimes. He was old enough that we could watch him be in his element at the LEGO store without hovering, but young enough that he still sat on Santa’s lap with requests.

I’d explained this to Cristian as I stroked his hair and breathed in these last moments of this age. Having only one child is perfect for our family in so many ways, but it also means that our firsts are always our lasts. That part breaks my heart every time. But, as he always seems to do in the clutch for me, he snapped me out of my melancholy with his prepubescent voice of reason.

“But Momma, what if ten is even better? We’ll never know if we don’t go to sleep.”

Tears sprang to my eyes but they weren’t tears of mourning for the nine-year-old I’d lose once he hit the land of nod. These tears…they were tears of hope for the ten-year-old I’d meet the next morning.

 

Yes, he would look the same and act the same. But he would be different in my eyes. But there’s something about double digits that really gets to a mother.

Photo by Renee Matthews Photography

I was reminded of our conversation a few weeks later when I was eating my lunch at my desk and bit into the sweetest cherry I’d ever had. I nibbled on it and didn’t want the vibrant taste to end. But, despite my best efforts, it was gone. I’ll blame it on hormones, but I was legitimately sad that I’d finished this cherry. I remembered the conversation I had with my now ten-year-old and popped the next cherry into my mouth.

And you know what? That one was pretty tasty as well. Just like ten has been good to us, too, thus far.

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