It's fleeting. It's precious. Some days it drags on slower than a slug dipped in cough syrup, and then, suddenly it's been eleven years.
If I were to write a blog post for each of my kids' birthdays, I'd spend my life writing birthday blog posts. (Large family humor, it's a bit of an exaggeration. This is true.) I do, however, feel led to address these offspring of mine on their birthdays from time to time. This year, this eleventh year, is one of those times.
This past year with Ben has been a game changer.
Each year of childhood has its challenges. Newborns don't sleep. One year olds can't talk. Two year old are highly volatile. Three year olds are stuck between toddlerhood and childhood and that's frustrating for everyone. So on and so forth. Six year olds lose all of their teeth. Seven year olds grow new, huge ones back in their places. Nine and ten year olds know everything and are anxiously awaiting that rite of passage into the age of "middle school."
Middle school. Yikes. Not anyone's finest years, am I right? I think back to when I was eleven. I bought my first pair of Reebok classics with my own money because it seemed really important to have name brand shoes in middle school. I walked those gigantic, bright white size 10's down to the bus stop on my spindly little chicken legs. Everything about me was at least as awkward as those shoes.
This doesn't seem like that long ago.
It was 1994. 20 years ago.
I think the most alarming thing about Ben turning eleven this year is all of the math problems I've associated with it. If he follows a traditional path and goes to college after his senior year of high school, I only have seven years left with him in my home. This is less than half of his entire life up to this point. And I know how fast eleven years has gone.
When Ben blessed us with his presence on September 5, 2003, I was 20 years old. If Ben were to follow that particular path, he could be a dad in a mere nine years. Say what?
Wasn't he just born yesterday?
Yes. Yes, he was. That day changed the entire course of my life. Retrospect has given me the gift of seeing now that it was only for GOOD.
My Amazing Ben,
The moment I found out I was pregnant with you, I knew I had become "a mom," but it didn't hit me until we left the hospital that your dad and I were fully responsible for you. I admit right up front that I didn't know what I was doing. I still don't. I hope it's not obvious and that I at least fake it well, but I'm going to need lots of grace, especially from you, my dear, oldest child. Although I've never been "an oldest," I see now what's expected of you and how much we had to learn as we reared you, and it's not an easy job. The good news is, you kind of rock at it.
I've watched you grow now for eleven years. I cannot believe it's been that long since that day we first met 8lb 13oz you. Such a plump, precious baby with a head full of dark, dark hair that had everyone questioning if there had been some sort of parental mix-up. You still have the thickest, most enviable mop of dark, dark hair, but you're no longer as plump as you are a strapping young man.
I won't dwell too much on Baby Ben, but I do want to highlight a few things from this past year because I am so, so proud of you. In your tenth year, you learned personal responsibility (should I bring up the math lessons here?), you learned the value of a good attitude and how it affects your performance, you laughed so much, you learned to take a joke and even how to make some at your own expense, you become a big brother again, and you continued to grow and develop your relationships with three little sisters who all adore you. You grew in wisdom and in stature. Hey, we can even share shoes now. You have exhibited maturity in ways far beyond your years, and you've cut loose with giggles and sillies that could not be more appropriate for a boy of ten. You have hit your quota of words by 10am on countless days, but you keep right on chatting. You might make an amazing radio personality someday. You have helped in the kitchen, folded a million towels, cleaned toilets, unloaded dishes, cleared off tables, babysat. You're going to make the most amazing husband and father some day.
I cannot believe you are eleven years old, but I'm glad you are. Because even though I thought I was unprepared for the awkward middle school years, I'm finding that I enjoy you more with each passing day. You are a hoot! I love your sense of humor. (I'm claiming that one. You're welcome.) Keep making me laugh, Ben. Keep loving on your little sisters and brother. Keep being a brother worth admiring.
Just for fun, here's a little photo overload of your past ten years. Maybe when you're a dad you'll realize why this made your dear old mom cry.
I love you, Ben Eleven (nope, not as nice a ring as Ben Ten). Keep smiling and making me smile. You are one awesome young man. I'm honored to be your mom.