Thursday, June 10, 2010
We are at the height of the ‘Birthday Season’ in our family, right now. Oddly enough, my birthday is in early March, and Jen’s is in late July; and all our kids except 4M have their birthdays in the five-month window between my birthday and hers. And 4M’s is only a couple weeks after Jen’s, so all ten of us have our birthdays in the same five-and-a-half-month window from March to mid-August (I guess Jen and I have been fond of the summer and fall). . . Our two oldest daughters both have their birthdays in June – 1F’s was last week, and 2F’s is next week. I was teasing 1F a little for turning 28 (and honestly? When did I become old enough to have a 28-year-old daughter?), and she just rolled her eyes at me and said, “Geez, Dad, it’s not like I’m turning 30, or anything. . .” OK, that made me feel so much better, that I’m two whole years away from being the father of a 30-year-old. . . Anyway, I am reminded of a story (aren't I always?). . . ------------------------- When 1F was a young girl, she was very much the perfectionistic first-born ‘pleaser’ – the kind of girl who, if her parents told her to jump, would ask, “How high?” Which was kinda fun for earnest young parents, but masked some underlying, uh, problems. Aside from lulling us into a false sense of competence when 2F, who was, um, a bit less compliant, came along. Around the time 1F turned 10 or so – double-digits, and all that – sensitive young father that I was, I started cracking wise about her impending entry into teenager-hood. “Don’t worry about it,” I’d say. “You’re gonna be stupid, but all teenagers are stupid. I was stupid when I was a teenager, and you will be, too. But if we can just get you through to the other side of your teen years, you’ll be just fine.” I think one time she asked me, “What about Mom? Was she stupid when she was a teenager?” I had to think long and carefully before answering that one. (I think I said, “Probably not, but you should ask her. . .” Or words to that effect. . .) So, we got to 1F’s twelfth birthday, and gave it a suitable observance, involving cake and ice cream. And our very own Family Birthday Tradition, whereby each member of the family writes the Birthday Person an honoring note, telling of the various ways in which the BP is loved, and admired, and appreciated. On the whole, I think it’s been one of the better Family Traditions we’ve instituted over the years. If only because it forces everyone in the family to think, even if it’s only for a few minutes once a year, about the ways in which they love the other family members, instead of just being annoyed or irritated by them, and wishing that they could conjure up a hole in the earth to push them down. . . Later in the day, I noticed that 1F seemed a little downcast. I gave her a little sideways hug and asked her if something was bothering her, at which point, she burst into tears. I couldn’t imagine what could be causing her such inconsolable grief, and I repeatedly asked her what was wrong, but she could only bawl, her shoulders heaving involuntarily with each stricken sob. At last, she calmed herself a little, and once more I asked, “What is it, sweetheart? What’s wrong?” “It’s my twelfth birthday,” she wailed. Yes. . . And that should make you happy, shouldn’t it? “But next year, I’ll be thirteen!” she wailed. So. . . what’s wrong with that? “I’ll be a teenager. . . AND I DON’T WANT TO BE STUPID!!” And the sobs began anew. . . You ever have one of those moments where you realized that something you said, even long ago, that you’d meant as a kind of offhand, smartass remark, a light-hearted casual joke, was really just incredibly stupid? (Since we’re on the topic of Stupid. . .) And you want to get yourself into a time machine, to go back and expunge your words from existence? Yeah, this was one of those. . . “I tell you, on the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak.” (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, chapter 12, verse 36) (*sigh*) ------------------------- (edit, 1:30 PM) And of course, this recalls my favorite quote from George MacDonald (maybe I should adopt this as my personal motto, or something?): "The business of the Universe is to make such a fool of you that you will know yourself for one, and so begin to be wise."