My oldest child turned nineteen a few days ago. I know it sounds cliché, but I wonder where the time has gone.
Evan is finishing up his sophomore year of college and celebrated his second birthday away from home last week. Prior to his moving on campus, his birthday was a day we would always do something special for. Over the years, we would usually go out for a family dinner on his birthday and have a party for him most years too.
I vividly remember each one because I made a small scrapbook for him of each of his birthdays from the day he was born to his 17th birthday. The scrapbook was my gift to him for his 18th birthday—the first one away from home. As our firstborn, we provided some pretty elaborate birthday parties for him. I can’t imagine Evan not remembering his parties or the attention we lavished on him.
In comparison, I don’t think I ever had a birthday party growing up. I remember going to a friend’s house for her party when I was about five years old. I was in awe of the event and how she was showered with so much attention. The only celebration I can remember was when I was about eight years old. There weren’t any kids invited to the house, but I remember having a German chocolate cake—my favorite. It was a memorable occasion because my parents remembered that small detail about me.
I was nineteen too when I finished my sophomore year of college. I was attending a small liberal arts college 200 miles away from home. I spent the summer between my sophomore and junior year housesitting for a professor and working on campus. I loved my independence. Looking back now, I’m sure that decision must’ve caused my mother much pain as I also chose to never live at home again. But I know God opened that opportunity to protect me from the dysfunctional environment back home.
Thankfully, my son will return home again this summer. We will adapt to having another mouth to feed and watching him come and go on his own schedule. It is the new rhythm of letting go. I am choosing to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.
And so how do you make a birthday memorable after so many well documented parties and dinner outings? You turn to the simple.
To celebrate Evan’s 19th birthday, we didn’t shower him with attention, parties and presents like we did in the past. He came home for the weekend and enjoyed some family time. It was nothing fancy—dinner on the grill, video games with his brother and a bit of TV with the family. And for the first time ever, I made it just a bit more memorable (for me anyway), by baking him a birthday cake. Proving that even at 19, parents do still have a few tricks left up their sleeve.
So for this mom, who tries hard to make her kids’ birthdays special, simple was a good change. And less really was more.