The birthdays I helped my boys celebrate pretty much blend together in my mind. They were all loud and fun, although they weren't all the same. A few stand out in my mind, but none more than Ben's 5th birthday.
Benjamin had been watching his brothers take off for school all his life. He was ready to join them. He always wanted to know when he could go to school, and like any mother with no brain, I had told him that he could go when he was five. I certainly never meant that he could go the very minute he turned five. Honestly, I didn't.
So into the kitchen chaos he comes on this birthday morning, where I'm packing lunches and putting breakfast in front of half sleeping brothers. Ben's face is scrubbed. His clothes are Sunday best. The front and sides of his hair are combed to perfection. The back is still a rat's nest. If he can't see it, it doesn't count. "Wow," I said, "You got all dressed up for your birthday!" That's when he informed me that he was ready for school.
He didn't take the news too well that he'd have to wait until the next class year started, which would be another five months away. He wasn't too sure what a month was, but it did not sound good. Of course his brothers thought he was incredible nuts, wanting to go to school, but this is one person who even at five knew his own mind. Have you ever wanted something desperately and then when you finally attained it, found it wasn't to your taste at all? Not Ben. He thrived at school.
That first day, when the other kids at the kindergarten door were hanging onto their mommies, Ben was surprised to see me still standing there after a few minutes, and calmly walked back from exploring the bookshelf and said, "Go home now. This is my school." He was polite but firm. Seeing the panic in the faces of the other moms, trying to detach little bodies from their legs so they could sneak from the room, I decided to let myself feel smug rather than rejected.