Tomorrow, Henry turns nine years old. For the past few years, we have celebrated his birthday in New York, where we make an annual holiday visit to Bob’s hometown. However, this year, a pesky stomach bug forced us to cancel our trek north. As much as I am disappointed to miss out on celebrating the season with family, spending Henry’s birthday at home is turning out to be a blessing. It’s something we haven’t done since, I think, his fifth birthday. Like Bob’s birthday five days before Christmas, Henry’s birthday five days after Christmas has meant it gets lost in the shuffle a bit. Even with our best efforts to make it a very special day.
So, we are making it a very special day for Henry, indeed! Bob and I agreed, with our change of travel plans, that some one on one time with Henry would be perfect. Bob will tend to Charlie and Millie while I get to take Henry to a host of places that Henry has specifically requested. (And, lest you think Bob gets the short end of the stick here, he’ll be napping contentedly while I spend hours listening to detailed character descriptions of every Lego Star Wars character ever created. So, it’s pretty even-steven.)
Stop #1: the library. When asked what super! amazing! place he wanted to visit for his birthday, Henry requested a special trip to the library. Done and done, kid. Thanks for being so easy to please.
Stop #2: Sweet Frog. Which is ironic since Henry hasn’t had a taste of ice cream since he was a toddler (when he quit being a fan of so many, many delicious foods). However, Sweet Frog remains a favorite since he can amass a wide variety of his favorite candy toppings in one convenient bowl! Marshmallows for miles.
Stop #3: Target. He really is closest to my heart, this one. Thanks to some generous family members, Henry has a little money in his wallet to spend (nine-year-olds carry wallets!) and since we could really use some milk and bananas, Target it is. Well, the Lego aisle at Target, anyway.
I can’t wait for our day. The luxury of time is not something we often have together, this big kid and I.
And, time is passing for certain. For some reason, with this ninth birthday, my awareness of Henry’s age and his advancing maturity is acute.
It’s subtle how this creeps up. This realization of growing independence and autonomy.
When we arrive at church on Sundays, there is a brief process during which we get each kid signed in and set in their respective Sunday school rooms. After a couple of weeks of attendance, Henry asked if he could walk to his classroom alone. “I know the way, mom. I know where to go,” he explained. Bob and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows and sent him on his way. We got Charlie and Millie settled and, of course, went down to Henry’s room to ensure he was there and seated. He saw us peeking in the doorway and appeared mortified. He approached only to tell us that he was fine and to shoo us away. Bob and I headed to the sanctuary both knowing that it had begun. This confidence.
When we arrived home from a busy afternoon away, the kids parked themselves in front of the television while Bob and I rested. When dinnertime rolled around and I headed to the kitchen to rummage for supper components, I found Henry seated at the table enjoying a full meal of his usual favorites. When I looked at him confused, Henry explained, “I was hungry. So, I made myself dinner.” He did. He made himself dinner. I sighed knowing that it had begun. This needing us less.
“I can’t believe how tall you are getting,” family and friends exclaim when they set eyes on Henry. It’s true. He’s getting taller. After rising at 3:00 a.m. Christmas morning, he fell fast asleep early on Christmas evening. In our bed. With Bob asleep next to him, I went about the daunting task of relocating this suddenly enormous and incredibly sleepy kid to his own bed. He’s taller. And, bigger. And, heavier and I realized I couldn’t carry him anymore and that it had begun. This physical transformation.
It’s all changing but then it’s not changing but then it all is and then one day, you have a nine-year-old who is wonderful and unique and independent and asked to go to the library for his birthday.
I’m not nostalgic for the old days. Just painfully aware of these new days. And, sometimes, my heart doesn’t feel big enough to hold all the love I have for him.
Happy birthday, Henry. You are loved beyond measure.