Day 90 of 365: a year in songs and photos
Song: Tom Chapin, Happy Birthday
Tomorrow is my son’s 15th birthday.
When my kids were very young, I started using this Tom Chapin song for their birthdays instead of the traditional birthday song:
Happy birthday, happy birthday we love you
Happy birthday and may all your dreams come true
When you blow out the candles one light stays aglow
That’s the love light in your eyes wherever you go
Excuse me. I think I have something in my eye. Oh, yea, it’s my overactive emotions.
Fifteen. Where the hell did fifteen years go? It feels like just moments ago that he was toddling around the backyard. I look at all the pictures of him and it all passes before me like a movie; the ear infections, the way he memorized a map of the United States when he was just two, his obsession with the Power Rangers, making the Little League all-star team, playing that damn recorder in the school concert, mesmerizing the staff at Guitar Center when he played Comfortably Numb for them, his idolization of Eddie Van Halen and his obsession with anything from the 80′s….it all plays out in full color in my head, still life memories and film clips of everything from when he fell asleep in his high chair, face down in a bowl of oatmeal, to his brooding teenager phase that he’s just coming out of.
You have so much hope for your kids when they are young. Sometimes that hope and your dreams of success for your child make you want more from them than they want to give. The phrase “so much potential” comes to mind, because we’ve heard it about him a million times. “He could get a baseball scholarship some day.” But he stopped playing baseball. “He’s an amazing guitar player.” But he has no desire to join a band or play in any school bands. “His good grades seem effortless.” But 8th grade was kind of a rude awakening to the fact that it couldn’t always be effortless. So you kind of back off from cajoling them into doing what you want them to do and try to find out what they want to do. Besides play Xbox and watch hockey games, that is.
Anyone who has parented a teenage son will tell you that 14 is a tough year. I’m not going to lie, there were times in the last year when I wanted to tell him to go live with his father. When his uncle (my brother in law) died last April, it was like the last flickering light of the child I knew went out. I was told to give him time. I did. We’ve been patient and demanding at the same time; a healthy combination of both, I think. We waited out his penchant for locking himself in his room but tried to curtail his surliness. We just waited and hoped that light in his eyes would reappear. It did. We made it to 15.
Like magic, there’s been a considerable change in his attitude and outlook the past two months. His teachers have noticed a marked effort on his part to catch up on work he blew off. He’s taking interest once again in his schoolwork. He’s more sociable. Less awkward. He wants to play baseball again. I hear the beginning notes of the solo from Comfortably Numb coming from his room and it makes me think that flickering light is coming back to full flame again. I’m actually enjoying his company once more.
Being a parent gets tougher every year. The older they get, the bigger the problems get. They will drive absolutely batshit crazy sometimes. But when you can look at your kid and, even though he’s not a star athlete or honor student or anything like that and say “He’s a good kid. I’m proud he’s mine,” that’s what keeps you sane.
It’s definitely a cliche, but childhood does go so fast. It really feels like yesterday that I was teaching him how to ride a bike. I look at this lanky kid – who looks more like a man than a kid – and wonder when he got to be as tall as me. When did he grow up? I know there were a lot of times when I thought to myself “How much longer til he goes away to college, because it can’t be soon enough.” But now I find myself saying “I only have three more years before I lose him to the real world.” I’m just going to enjoy these three years and hope he fulfills his own dreams for himself, whatever they may be.
God, I hope he isn’t thinking serial killer or pimp.
Oh, and if you think I’m maudlin now, wait two weeks for my daughter’s 18th birthday.
Happy birthday, happy birthday, we love you…
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