Since Joey has a summer birthday, it's right around this time of June that I get a nice little note from his teacher suggesting when he can celebrate his day in school before vacation starts. I'll never forget kindergarten, when birthday after birthday of his friends passed, and one day he came home all morose and dejected and said, "I guess I just don't get to have a birthday at school."
Personally, I think summer birthdays are the greatest. There are so many options for celebrating. So many nice, outdoor options. But I do remember that excited feeling I used to have to bring in my shirt box filled with cupcakes each October, to hear the whole class sing my name, to receive a birthday bookmark from my teacher. And maybe a Now-and-Later. (Remember those?)
(Although, my mom always did what my sister and I have come to call "Judying It Up" when it came to school birthdays. That is to say, she always tried to find the simpler way. Rather than just make cupcakes, she tried to buy something that seemed way cooler to save herself any work. In second grade she sent a big, sloppy, melty cake from the grocery store, and as my teacher attempted to cut and serve it to the class--with a spoon, as I recall, because someone failed to send appropriate plastic cutlery--she glared at me and said, "Please tell your mother to NEVER do this again." In third grade, for a limited time, Oreo made these giant version of their cookies. Each one was like six inches in diameter. My mom sent in three boxes for my class of 28, thinking that they were packaged in tens. They were packaged in eights, and it became an embarrassing and pathetic plight to encourage any student to surrender their cookie for the sake of someone else, which no one wanted to do. Plus I didn't get to go on an excursion through the school offering my treats to administrators and past teachers. Thanks, Mom, for building my character like that.)
Today, Joey presented me with his teacher note, suggesting which days might work to celebrate Joey's birthday.
"Which day would you prefer?" I asked him.
He shrugged. "Friday. Friday's my favorite day."
"Okay,"I said. "Do you want cupcakes, cookies, or what?"
"Cookies!" he said excitedly.
I smiled at him, just excited for his excitement. I can't believe that he's turning eight years old. I can't believe that I've been a mom for eight years. It's crazy to think about. It's crazy to think that eight years ago, God actually believed I could handle the responsibility of an infant. But alas. Before me sat a beautiful almost-third grader, hair already turning crispy blond for the summer, green eyes aglow with something special that has not been hurt by the world yet. I love this child.
"Joey," I said suddenly. "Is this one of those events where the parents come in? Do you want me to be there for the big par-tay?"
Joey whirled around to look at me in horror. "NO! No, parents don't come!"
What now? It wasn't the words. It was the immediateness of the answer. It was the tone. What's up, beautiful, unaffected eight-year-old? Are you...perhaps...a little affected after all?
"Uh, Joey? It sounds a little like you don't want me to come in. Are you, like, too cool for your mom? Do you think I might embarrass you? Are you too manly for my presence?"
No pause. "Basically." I felt a distinct, unspoken Thanks for understanding.
I'll tell you what. Eight years of being a mom hasn't made me an idiot.
"Okay," I said, trying to keep my voice casual. "It's just that, you know, for Noah's birthday I came in and read a story to the class and brought in an album of all his baby pictures for everyone to look at, so--"