For Your 10th Birthday, 10 Ways That You Amaze Me

Dear son, today you turn 10. And while every birthday is worth celebrating, this one is particularly poignant.

For ten whole years, I’ve held you, fed you, hugged you, entertained you, laughed with you, cleaned you and cleaned up after you, answered your questions, dried your tears, high fived your achievements. I’ve spent hours fretting, researching, discussing, wondering about how you’re progressing socially, cognitively, biologically, emotionally, academically.

I’m often telling you to quieten down, slow down, clean up, hurry up. I may nag, I may yell, I may sigh with frustration. I discipline and punish. I lay down tough rules. And yes, I make you empty the dishwasher, pick up your stinky socks, turn off your device, do your homework, eat your vegetables, flush the toilet, and play nicely with your sister.

Because this is all part of the contract I made with my heart when I became a parent. Its design, other than to protect my sanity, is to show you the path to becoming a good person. Because I consider that job number one.

But mostly, throughout this past decade, I’ve admired you. You, Gabriel, amaze and inspire me, and here’s why:

  1. You are high on life. You are always 100% in the moment (even if that moment only last 60 seconds before you are on to the next moment!) You grab each day with gusto and joy, extract from it as much delight as you possibly can. May your lust for life and joy always be with you and rub off on the people around you, so they can light up the room, like you do.
  2. You are creative. Your inquisitive and imaginative mind, sharp, curious eye and lithe fingers compel you to express yourself through detailed sketches, funny doodles, paintings, sculptures and, oh so many, fantastic origamis. There’s no doubt you have an innate talent. I hope you continue to explore and challenge your art because when everything is grey and dull, your creativity will bring color and energy.
  3. You are a book worm, a reading ninja. You surround yourself with all kinds of books from Captain Underpants to National Geographic. Almost every evening, as I tiptoe into your room to kiss you goodnight, I have to first peel from your cheeks the pages of the book you were reading as you fell asleep. Please don’t ever stop reading. It will feed your brain, your imagination and your sense of adventure.
  4. You are sensitive. Grandma always said you have an “old soul.” This past year you’ve dealt with some tough stuff – your beloved dog died and you were in a frightening car crash. You cried, you hurt. You were scared. But you worked through it all with more maturity that I ever imagined a nine year-old could. I’m sorry that sad and scary stuff happens. I wish I could protect you from it all but it’s part and parcel of life and I’m proud that you are sensitive and brave enough to show your emotions. Because it’s always OK to feel all your feelings. Except the cold. Please put on a coat when it’s cold.
  5. You love animals and nature. You cried when we had some trees removed because you were worried the birds would lose their homes. If there’s a moth or spider in the house, I want to crush them, but you insist on saving and releasing them outside. You want to pet every dog you meet. Maybe you were a golden retriever in another life. It would explain a lot!
  6. You make friends with ease. You are so personable and easy to know. With kids and adults alike, you interact with confidence. I hope to continue to pick – and be – the best friend. Because we need friends, in good times and bad.
  7. You are generous (you get this from your father.) Just last week, you spontaneously made an origami for the waitress at a restaurant. This past weekend you told me you’d saved enough money to buy your sister a Christmas gift. Generosity is so important; it keeps you ever mindful of the needs of others. But remember, generosity is not just about things: it’s about being generous with your time, your attention, your skills. And it demands no reciprocity. It just is.
  8. You are funny. I always say you’ll be the next Conan O’Brien. Your teachers think you are hoot. But please remember there’s a time and a place for your hi-jinx!
  9. You have an amazing metabolism. The sheer volume of food you can consume in a sitting is crazy yet your body remains lithe and lean. You enjoy being active and understand what comprises a balanced diet – even if you have the wickedest sweet tooth. Just keep everything in moderation and keep moving.
  10. You love your family. Grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles and especially your cousins (especially Emma!) You are always so sad when it’s time to leave them. Remember family is everything: your roots, your anchor.

I can’t believe how time has flown and I’m so excited for the next ten years. OK that’s not entirely true. I’m terrified of the puberty years. Of hormones. Of teenage temptations. Of you learning to drive! But I’m also confident that you have the building blocks to show you the way.

Happy birthday Gabriel, I love you.

And don’t forget to wear a coat when it’s cold please.

And turn off your bedroom light.

And no, you can’t have a third slice of birthday cake.

Gabriel

 

 

 

Facebook Has Killed the Birthday Card & That’s Cool With Me

Yesterday I turned 47. (Thud. I know. I’m as shocked by this number as you are.)

And this was the first time ever that I only received one birthday card. Just the one. (Thanks Mum & Dad.)

I also received:

  • 2 phone calls
  • 1 FaceTime call
  • 1 WhatsApp message
  • 4 text messages
  • 1 Facebook Messenger message
  • 2 Instagram messages
  • and more 100 birthday-wishing posts and comments on my Facebook timeline.

(I also got lots of hugs from the hubs and the kids, but I’m focusing on the digital/mobile/social stuff here, as you can tell.)

By some strange and wonderful coincidence, the Huffington Post yesterday published a snarky piece about Facebook birthday notifications and receiving “happy birthday” posts from people you barely know.

Yeah I get it. Facebook makes it really easy to notice someone’s birthday and send them good wishes in three seconds or less. I mean it’s so much easier than buying and mailing a card or making a phone call. Then you’re all “job done” and you can move on to your next status update, text, Instagram, bagel, tweet, shopping, pedicure, Words with Friends play or whatever.

But when you are on the receiving end of more than 100 birthday wishes via Facebook from family and friends – whether these are people you chat with regularly or haven’t heard from in a decade – it’s really wonderful. Heartwarming. Each of these people took roughly three seconds out of their busy days to acknowledge something worth celebrating. (Me!)

So I don’t care if some people say that using Facebook to say happy birthday is a cop out. I appreciated each and every one.

Side note: Facebook has 1.317 billion monthly active users currently.Imagine if each of them took three seconds out of each day to send birthday wishes to someone else via the social network. In fact, I read that, on average, every day there are 1.9 million people celebrating their birthday.  So that’s 1.317 billion Facebook users x 1.9 million birthdays x 3 secs x 30 days in a month = I HAVEN’T A CLUE ….. but it’s got to be a humungous number of good vibes.

Which, in my humble opinion, cannot be a bad thing.

Don’t Buy Me Stuff

Back in my 20s when a good friend and I both lived in London, we used to take each other to the theatre for our respective birthdays. We both loved musicals and drama, and it was a wonderful and generous way for us to treat each other. It also helped that our birthdays were several months apart, so we got to see new shows every six months for a couple of years.

Fast-forward 20 odd years. Through good fortune and hard graft, I am lucky enough to have a beautiful home and a lot of stuff. More stuff, in fact, than I truly need. My family also has a lot of stuff, especially my kids. When stuff breaks or gets outdated or replaced by a newer better version of stuff, we get new stuff. Old stuff gets donated, recycled or thrown away.

So.Much.Stuff.

Too.Much.Stuff.

I’d being lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the stuff; that the fruits of our hard work enable us to acquire things. Some of these things we need, or at least we claim we need. Most of it we really don’t need, but we like to have, own, use, show off.

I feel guilty about all the stuff. Compared to others that are not as fortunate. I’d like to not only give away more stuff to those with more need but I’d also like to not acquire as much new stuff.

Charity starts at home, as they say. My kids need to learn that stuff doesn’t really matter. They don’t need to constantly buy or be bought new things. The need to understand the value of what they already have. And understand that being generous doesn’t always mean giving stuff away, though it’s a start. It’s our job to set this example, practice what we preach.

I’m thinking about this topic as my birthday is approaching in a few weeks. Birthdays, especially for kids, become the epicenter of getting more stuff. Often nice stuff. Maybe stuff we need but won’t buy for ourselves.

So here’s the thing. Please don’t buy me stuff. I have more than I deserve already. If I want, ‘need’ or desire something, I can go buy it myself.

Instead, treat me to experiences. Take me to the theatre. Let’s have a day trip. A picnic on the beach. Let’s do something unexpected and crazy and fun. It may cost money but maybe not.

You see, the more stuff you have, the more it collects dust. It becomes hard to find the one bit of stuff you value the most when there’s a whole big, dusty pile of stuff.

The opposite happens with experiences. Each experience can be treasured both in the moment, and after. Experiences can be shared. Experiences don’t degrade with time. Every time you unwrap them in your memory, they are lush with emotions, vivid with detail.

So, please don’t buy me stuff. I don’t intend to be ungrateful. I know there’s pleasure in selecting a gift for someone. I’m sorry if this request denies you that pleasure.

How’s this for a deal? I’ll treat you to an experience too. That’s way we’ll all have memories to cherish instead of piles of more stuff.

Six!

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You’ve always been your own person, jiving to your own beat.

You grab every day with enthusiasm.

You burp like a beer-swilling trucker.

Optimus Prime is still your main man. Followed by Bruno Mars.

You still move at the pace of a snoozing snail.

You live by the rules. Except when you wrestle with your brother.

You love pop music. As long as it’s “rocky.”

When you are angry, you are fierce. (You go girl!)

You still consume your food molecule by molecule.

Your almond eyes and deep red lips surprise me every day (I made such beauty?)

You can laugh at yourself. When you laugh, your voice disappears. It’s very cute.

No juice please, only milk.

Dresses & skirts be gone (but at least you let me braid your hair.)

You want to be a vet when you grow up.

You’ve partially overcome your dislike of spherically shaped foods. Meaning you now eat peas and corn, and you’ll suck on a grape. But blueberries, baby tomatoes? Nope.

You want to be either Captain America or The Hulk for Halloween.

No sauce please, on anything.

You are planning on forming a band. You will be playing bass.

You love to snuggle, you love bedtime, you love to sleep.

You go from tears to giggles at shocking speed.

I can still double bluff you.

You are my superhero.

Happy birthday, T – welcome to six!

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One Moment at a Time

Life moves so fast. One day it’s Sunday, next it’s Friday. It’s January, then it’s June. Easter then Halloween. Births, birthdays, graduations, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, death, funerals. Whoosh, that’s it. Done and dusted.

This dizzy pace, the constant tension pushing us forward, making plans for next week, next month, next year. Deadlines, objectives, goals. Schedules, appointments, vacations. The intense desire to do things better, faster, differently, more.

It terrifies me. It’s a repetitive punch that sucks the oxygen from my lungs. Leaves me winded and gasping.

What about now?

Right now?

I love my life. I love this moment. I don’t want to whisk it away in a frenzied rush to get things done and onto the next item on the to-do list? I want to taste the here and now, enjoy it, sear it into my increasingly challenged memory. Venerate it. Put my two arms around it and give it a huge great bear hug. Whisper in its ear. Jump atop a table and dance with it. Pour it a cold beer and have a good chinwag.

Just in case.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Here and Now II, 2006, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches by Kayla Mohammadi, Brookline, MA

http://joanmitchellfoundation.org/artist-programs/artist-grants/painter-sculptors/2008/kayla-mohammadi

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