Exactly a year ago, my dad greeted a certain birthday boy with a rousing cheer of
"Evan is Seven! Evan is Seven!"
It was a chorus repeated often in the past year.
Well, new year, new cheer..."Evan is Ev-EIGHT!"
(I think Pop had been waiting a whole year to use that one.)
(It went over really well with the second-grade and under crowd.)
Evan, I can't believe you're eight.
But you must be, because when I asked if you still wanted that Minecraft-themed birthday party we had talked about a few months ago (and that I had been mentally planning every day since), you said, "Uh, no, Mom." And when I said, "Oh, so maybe Star Wars or...." (mind-racing, reaching for my Pinterest app), you replied:
"Mom, I don't want a birthday party this year."
"Oh. Really? No party?" [heart, breaking just a little]
"Nope. Well, maybe just a family party."
"Definitely! But...no party with friends? How about just a play date with a few buddies?"
"Fine. But just three friends. And no decorations."
"Oh. Okay. How about a special snack or something?"
"Okay, but no fancy matching plates or anything."
So there it is. We'll celebrate your birthday...your EIGHT years...YOU...but I promise not to use matching plates.
You're starting to figure You out, buddy, and you're doing a great job. You're starting to understand your limits and also where you can push yourself to stretch a bit. You're figuring out how to meet your social and emotional needs on your own terms.
I'm so proud of you.
One of the things you've discovered during this year of Figuring You Out, has been Reading. You've been reading since kindergarten, but now you're Reading to try to quench an insatiable thirst...you're constantly seeking more books and chapters and pages and words.
(And I get it, buddy, I'm the same way...)
On the first day of spring break, I agreed to a Jammies Day. (You insisted upon it.) No schedule, no agenda, no boxes checked on our Spring Break Bucket List. You cuddled up in the little nest you've created for yourself in the space between your bed and the wall. You brought a stack of books and you disappeared. We ended up having a very laid back spring break.
(I tossed the bucket list.)
It was just what you needed.
Reading is just what you needed.
Reading gives you space. Reading gives you a retreat. Reading gives your active imagination a work-out...and it gives us so much to talk, wonder, and think about...together (which may be my very favorite part, selfish as that sounds...).
You are such a Reader.
(And I so get that.)
You devoured Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which ignited a fascination with Greek mythology. I pulled out my old copy of D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths and Enid Blyton's Tales of Ancient Greece, then you rounded out your collection with Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson's Greek Gods. You know all of their stories and strengths and weaknesses and family ties. You learned everything you could...but you were still hungry for more.
So we moved from Ancient Greece to Ancient Egypt. You started with, again, Rick Riordan. His Kane Chronicles series introduced you to the Egyptian gods and your ability to keep them straight (along with all of the Olympians) blows my mind. You know their powers, their weapons, their duties, their domains, and which animal head they possess.
But you've always been an information seeker, a Fact Keeper.
And I get that.
You are So Much like me.
But, as I was reminded by "Sarah" during my recent binge-watching of the show, Parenthood:
"as much as you seem so much like me, you're NOT me. You're not even an extension of me.
I need to remind myself of that from time to time because there are things about you that are So You...and sometimes those things are hard for me to understand because they're so Not Me.
You are a military-, weapons-, and war-obsessed kid right now. You've checked out every Eyewitness Book on the subject from your school library over the last few months. (Gone are the days of Henry and Mudge, I'm afraid...) You've memorized which weapons were used by which soldiers during which wars. You've asked questions about the Civil War, Vietnam, and the Nazis. You collect "army guys" and your pretend play scenarios all include battles and fighting and warfare.
And I hate it.
But I love you, and you look so stinkin' cute in your army gear...
So I'll allow this phase to run its course and (hopefully) pass.
Then, I'll patiently await your next obsession.
(Poetry writing? Bird Watching? Wetland conservation? International Peace Keeping? Memorization of the entire Beatles discography? A pacifist Mommy can dream, right?)
I love that...
You're a helper.
(Usually when you've finagled a compensation of some sort...)
|"I'll put away dishes if that means you'll be ready to play WWI Army Squadrons with me sooner!"|
You know how to get a laugh.
You stand up to the dark side.
But you still look so sweet and innocent when you sleep.
Rather than delay gratification, you head straight for the best part first.
Because you know what you like.
And you go after it.
I love everything about you.
(Yes, even the fact that you elicit stronger emotions out of me than anyone else. You know how to make me so crazy and can split me wide open with such pride and joy.)
Sometimes, just standing back and watching you makes me kind of choke up.
You made me a Mommy.
How'd you get so big?
I'll stand by you as you keep figuring You out.
There's such a peace to self-awareness. I can't wait for you to have that.
In the meantime, we have each other.
And I'm so glad these two have you.
They're lucky to have you (even if Max doesn't always realize it...you CAN be kind of a Boss) and you're lucky to have them (even if you don't always realize it...Molly sure does love to "just go see what Evan's doing in his room"). But Dad and I are the luckiest of all to get to see the three of you grow up together.
Evan, never forget that you have a big, supportive family who have your back.
Because you're awesome.
Even if Birthday Parties, suddenly, are not.
Eight. That sounds so big. That sounds so official. He is. He's officially Big. And I love being a Big Kid mom. It's hard, though. It's so much harder than being a Mommy to babies. (Not that any current Mommy of Babies would believe me...) Sure, back then I was overwhelmed and exhausted and I thought my life had never been, nor would ever be Harder than it was Right Then. But the stuff we're dealing with now? The Real Life stuff...the friend stuff...the school stuff...the "safe choices" stuff...it feels like a Very Big Deal. Right now, we have a captive audience with him. I hope we always do...but in case we someday don't, I'm trying to squeeze it all in now...all of the important Life Lessons that he Needs To Know....I'm trying to plant those tiny seeds in his brain now so that, when he's bigger and farther from us and he needs them, they'll be ready for him to harvest.
But I also know that someday I'll look back on This time, when he was *only* eight, and I'll think "Man, I didn't realize how easy it was back then...."
This shit just keeps getting harder. But it's a good hard.