Friday, June 5, 2009

Double Digits

This weekend, Nate turns 10.

And I know it’s unoriginal and clichéd, but I’ll go ahead and say it: Where has the time gone?

I think I’ll file this question under 'ironic', because we have a busy, busy weekend ahead. Before we even get to his combined party with Calvin on Sunday (turning eight in just a few weeks), we have the last day of school (complete with a school-wide field day), Nate’s actual birthday tomorrow, a family celebration tonight, two soccer games, a soccer meeting, a football game, and church. Still, at 6:00 this morning, I was feeling very organized. So organized, in fact, that I actually closed my eyes again and drifted blissfully (and so uncharacteristically) between sleep and full consciousness for another twenty minutes. To channel a Pretty Woman-era Julia Roberts: Big mistake. Big.

Because when I wandered nonchalantly into the living room at 7 am to serve breakfast and pack lunches, Nate greeted my excitedly. “What are you bringing to my classroom for my birthday today?”

Er….wait…what? I did a figurative hand slap to the forehead.

Somehow, thanks to teacher gifts, extensive party planning, soccer snacks, and field day preparation, school treats had not made it onto my mental list. Nate must have seen my face fall.

“It’s ok,” he said quickly (which I have to say was pretty generous of the kid who's currently driving me crazy on a regular basis), and perhaps partly because of that, I was determined not to drop this particular ball. I knew it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if he didn’t have treats in class, especially amid the hoopla of the last day of school, but it’s not a lot to ask really, to be singled out with a cupcake and a cup of punch for five minutes of one day.

“I thought I’d bring donuts,” I told him, patting myself on the back for thinking on my feet even while mentally rearranging my morning schedule. If I left the house for the field day at 8 am instead of 8:30, I could stop by the store on my way.

At 7:15, the boys were consuming their usual two bowls of cereal and I was wondering how I’d finish packing lunches and shower so I could get out the door in time. “Oh, did I tell you?” Calvin called from the table. “It’s Hawaiian Day. Do we have any leis?”

So by 7:20, I had finished scouring the dress-up box and the garage and all the closets for anything remotely suggesting sun and sand and perhaps a luau. Nada. Too bad it wasn’t Western Day though, because I had no idea we owned so many cowboy hats.

By 8:10, Nate and Cal had gone to school in distinctly un-tropical attire, and Toby and I were staring down a selection of Hostess products. You know, the ones that, no matter what shape or color, all taste like wax. Because I had managed to shower and dress and get Toby showered and dressed and get out the door in time to swing by the grocery store, but I was at the wrong grocery store, the one without a bakery.

It was too late to change gameplans, so we finally settled on the mini donuts. Unfortunately, however, they came in ‘convenient’ packs of four, which meant buying a cheap plastic platter as well (because there was no time to go home to get one) and then sitting in the car unwrapping donuts pack by pack to make them presentable to a 4th grade class. And of course we just had to buy the powered ones, didn‘t we? Breathing that stuff in has got to be on par with asbestos inhalation.

Long story told in painfully drawn-out detail, we got to the school in time to pass them out and Nate was thrilled. (Then Toby spent the next two hours hanging onto a frayed rope for dear life at the field day tug-o-war station, but that’s another story for another day.)

The thing is, I should be better at all this by now. After dealing with kid birthdays for a decade, I shouldn‘t be scrambling around before 9 am, settling for substandard pastries. But for some reason--especially when it comes to Nate--every year feels like a first. Every year, I feel caught unprepared, as if I’ve been thrust into some metaphorical deep end without sufficient training. I guess that’s the thing with firstborns: all their milestones are our milestones as well.

In a way, it’s not just them turning 10, or five, or one. It’s also our first time with a 10-year-old. Our first kindergartner, our first baby transforming before our eyes into a toddler. In other words, it’s all about us. Their every new experience and accomplishment is seen through the lens of a first-time parent, no matter how old they get or how thoroughly they try to shake us. It’s no wonder our firstborns turn out so neurotic and people-pleasing and desperate for attention.

And why yes, I am a firstborn as well…however could you tell?
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