My older son turned 7 last week. He’s the one who made me a mama, unless you count my hairless cat Esau who I consider my true first son, but you probably don’t.
We asked Miles what he wanted to do for his special day a few weeks ago. He told us he wanted to do our every week Wednesday activity which is go to PE class, French class, and open play day which our homeschool community holds at a park. I was surprised he wanted to do “regular” stuff on his birthday, but also thought it was sweet he wanted to see all of his friends and have a normal day.
The he asked to go to LEGOLand the day after his birthday. Not to sound like the big bad mama and dada, but my husband and I discussed it and we told him that wasn’t an option. Why? Well, we don’t like to spend lots of money in general, and we like to instill a notion of money as not infinite and unlimited. Since we are having a party for him in a few weeks, spending money on both was not in the plan. My husband and I didn’t grow up in wealthy families, and we both value a lot that we learned and developed in homes where there was a finite amount of stuff and money.
In addition, we think that if birthdays become associated with requests for huge trips and adventures like LEGOLand, it sort of sets an association we do not want: birthday = giant something that costs a lot of money (see reason mentioned above). We’d rather do LEGOLand on some random day in the year where there is a homeschooler discount or when friends are going, or something NOT associated with birthday expectations.
Miles took the no LEGOLAnd news surprisingly well and then he asked for a special dinner. Here it comes, I thought, He’s going to pick the expensive Japanese place where avocado sushi costs as much as spicy eel with lobster crumble or whatever treyf stuff is so pricey.
Nope. He asked to go to a noisy Mexican place where you order at the counter and get a number and sit down and they bring you your food. There’s always sports on the TV which hangs on the wall, and they have a kids’ “Power Plate” with a vegan option of tofu with pinto beans and Mexican rice. Quite powerful, no? Take that, people who think vegans get no protein. At this fine establishment (where we have a “Frequent Eater” rewards card), my younger son has been known to shovel down pinto beans and rice with tremendous fervor, something he never does at home. There’s a salsa bar, excellent guacamole, and each meal costs about $5. That’s my style.
I know a lot of people do huge parties for kids these days. I’ve seen bouncy castles at kids’ parties for years and SpinArt machines (awesome, by the way) and face painters and elaborate crafts and weeks at Disneyland hotels. I envy those people sometimes; I wish I had more patience or less hang-ups about money or crowds or kids who like bouncing around (neither of mine will set foot in one of those bouncy things). But this year was the first year I really felt okay with our choices and our kids’ choices. It felt not too big, not too small. It was just right.
When the day actually came, Fancy Assistant Brandon picked up amazing vegan donuts, mini brownies, cookies and cupcakes for our park day while I was at the hand doctor (yes, with the prematurely grey-haired hand therapist who’s still handsome). We sang Happy Birthday to Miles at the park and he played flag football and capture-the-flag and traded MAGIC: The Gathering cards. He opened his LEGO gifts at home and started to assemble them. We ate warmed up plum crumble which I make every year in the summer with plums from my mother-in-law’s plum tree and freeze for Miles’ birthday (this tradition started the summer before he was born when I was pregnant; we served it at his bris and every year since).
And as the Waldorf and Steiner philosophy indicates, 7 is a magic year. It’s a transition year when the teeth start falling out and the body and brain shift. It’s why many Waldorf families wait until 7 to start heavy academics. 7 is a huge change. And I knew it was true when this year, when I went to tell Miles the story of the Rainbow Bridge and how he came to be our baby (it’s a Waldorf sort of fairy tale), he told me he knew it already.
I fought back tears. I’ve told him this story every birthday, cuddled in bed together, since he was 1 year old. Was he done with being my sweet boy already? I’m not ready.
“I know it, Mama,” he said. “Let me tell it to you.”
And he did. He remembered every detail. How the little angel baby wants to come to earth. He dreams of delicious foods on earth but he’s not ready yet. He dreams of fun toys, but he’s not ready yet. He dreams of animals on earth but he’s not ready yet.
And then he dreams of a man and a woman. He’s ready. He goes over the Rainbow Bridge and there the man and woman are. They’re waiting for him. It’s his parents. It’s us.
Now I fought back tears for a different reason. He’s not done being my sweet boy. He’s done being a tiny sweet boy, and now he’s ready to do more than play. He’s ready to go into the world to read about things and write things and do things. He is ready to use his power to learn and feel and think and not only write but RIGHT things that need righting.
He’s our boy. He’s 7.
Seven happens to be the amount of our bonus we can use next time at the Mexican place we ate dinner, said the cashier when we paid. That’s right. We have $7 waiting for us for next time.
I guess 7 is magic. I’ll take it.