Not my own. Bring it ON for my birthday. But the boys’ birthdays? Those seem to be marked with a touch of melancholy for both Jason and me, amidst all the celebrating and excitement that birthdays inevitably bring. We felt it keenly last April when Isaiah turned one. We grieved a little at his growing up and revisited the conversation (again) of “are we done having kids?” because we couldn’t believe that the year of babyhood had so quickly come to an end. And we’re feeling it now. As our first-born turns 3 this Wednesday. I think their birthdays make us ever-more aware of how quickly time is passing.
Yesterday we threw Gryffin his first official birthday party. We tried to keep it small. Just our community group and a couple families with kids that live near by. It’s the first year that Gryffin has (sort of) understood the concept of a birthday (meaning he knew there would be cake) and it was a lot of fun for me to plan. The 4 older kids played well in the sandbox, the 2 babies were happy to be held by one and all, and the adults had margaritas. We had enough food, good weather, and lots of merriment. Before bed last night, Jason and I agreed happily that it was a success and looked forward to many more years of birthdays for our boys.
But now. Now I’m sitting in my reading chair, watching the rain fall while all three of my fellas nap, the house incredibly silent, and I’m feeling blue. I can’t believe my boy is three. I think there is one moment from yesterday’s party that will be etched in my mind for all time. Gryffin sitting in his little bear chair (finally he sits in it!) waiting for me to bring out the cupcakes so we could sing him happy birthday. He looked at me over his little shoulder, so eager, so excited, so vulnerable and unsure, all at once. I’m not entirely sure why it struck me so. Maybe because it had been such a busy day of preparing food, cleaning and decorating and I kept thinking throughout the day that I wanted to be sure to remember why we were doing all this prep. Why we were having a party. Why we were doing this in the first place. We did it to celebrate Gryffin’s life. To give thanks to God for being faithful to the next generation. To ask God’s face to shine on him as he grows. And to do this with our community. The community that is surrounding him and helping us bring him up. And that moment, with him peering up at me from that silly chair, brought all of those reasons to the forefront of my mind. And I wanted to stop the clock. To hold on to that nano-second for just a little bit longer. To really drink it in. Our boy surrounded by all these people who love him. Shane, whose name was the first besides “Mama” and “Papa” to pass his lips over a year ago (‘Haaaane’). Jordan, who brings him goat cheese because he knows Gryffin likes it so much. Belinda, who washes dishes with him and plays with him tirelessly, discussing things and answering all of his questions with patience and humor. Amy, who comes over every week and cares for him with such kindness and understanding. Kelly, who is always keeping tabs on his likes and dislikes. It just took my breath away.
I read once (on a blog, maybe?) that the first 6 years of your child’s life is yours, the parents’. That their story is essentially your story those first years. And then between the ages of 6-8, it starts to shift into their story and they take ownership of it, so to speak. The metaphor isn’t perfect but it makes sense. It’s so strange to think that Gryffin and Isaiah will have virtually no memory of this, –of these crazy, sweet, exhausting, wonderful years. Strange to realize that they really do belong to Jason and me, that we are the witness-bearers, the memory-keepers. Gryffin won’t remember his 3rd birthday party but I will. Jason will. Maybe some of our friends will. So I hope that we will live these years well. That we would remember the feel of Isaiah’s legs, so squishy and smooth, and the sweet-sour smell of Gryffin when he first wakes up (sounds strange but it’s totally his signature scent!). That we would really soak in those incredible moments with their heads resting on our shoulders, doing “hold you on the couch” time and “bomp, bomp boogies” because they are ours as much, if not more, than theirs. And I hope that although they won’t remember these years, these birthdays and milestones, these years that Jason and I will undoubtedly look back on and say “those were some of the best,” that they will know how deeply they are loved, by us and by so many others, and that that love would undergird them so that when the day comes, they can step forward and take hold of their story with confidence, knowing that the first chapters were written well.