All explanations and disclaimers aside, I have earnestly been meaning to post about Benjamin's 12th birthday. Yes, sports fans, you read that correctly: As of Friday, BENJAMIN TODD IS 12. No need to tell the boy's mommy how unbelievable that is. We had an early celebration with some of his buddies that involved a trip to an outdoor water park, complete with sunscreen-self-application-induced sunburn; takeout fried chicken; some play fighting and some real fighting; and lots and lots and lots of farts.
The actual week of Ben's birthday, the boy was particularly busy, with a full schedule of CrossFit kids' camp, baseball games, and rehearsals for theater camp. We still managed some party time with both sides of the family. The cousins' get-together at the lake was complete with his requested fried ice cream and an Uncle-Ted-induced water balloon fight.
The evening of his actual birthday came with a visit from Grandma R., more sports and video game loot, and a candle-lighting seminar by Aunt Lisa. Ben is one lucky, lucky, boy!
This is the story of Benjamin's birthday that is really sticking with me, and, frankly, it's not even much about the Birthday Boy. But it's good and important, anyway. Oh, and I do love him the MOST. The basis for the story is this: Ben's 12th birthday gift from his dad and mom was a cell phone. This is not the place to discuss or debate whether this was an appropriate gift at an appropriate age. His two older sisters got cell phones at 12, so he did, too. I still have plenty of trepidation about this decision, and I'm never thrilled with the results brought to Krinkeland with the arrival of yet another electronic device. That said, Ben has had a phone for three days and has greatly exceeded my expectations of how things would go... so far... still holding my breath... We're all doing the best we can. Let's leave it at that.
What I discovered on Ben's birthday, as he explored his newly instilled texting and messaging capabilities (no social media accounts and limited internet access at this point) is that we have some really awesome teenagers in our lives. No, I don't mean the permanent residents of Krinkeland-- though they are THE BEST-- but I mean other teens. You know, those loud, foul-mouthed, self-centered pinheads God created to physically destroy and mentally aggravate the planet? If that is your view, especially if that is your complete view, please, oh, please, read on.
Ben got his phone around 7 a.m. on his birthday. He immediately wanted to call and text every human he had ever met. We discussed. Dad had programmed in the numbers for a few family members and I have no doubt Ben sent out selfies galore.
Soon, it was time for the big sisters to leave for their theater camp rehearsal. A carload of high schoolers pulled up to the house and, instead of Amanda and Elisabeth dashing outside as they did on other days, the teens piled into the house. They were supposed to head out early for coffee or some such nonsense, but instead they all came in to share birthday donuts and well wishes with the younger brother. Maybe it was all the promise of fried dough, but I personally believe there were other factors, including good breeding and an affection for everyone's little bro.
After the sisters left, it soon became obvious they were sharing the news of their brother's newly minted phone number. His phone began ding-ding-dinging with text message alerts. We have our Apple IDs linked so that I, too, can read Ben's messages. Yes, I am a spy. It's part of parenting. My kids know it, and they don't like it, but they also know they don't have the power or the maturity to handle things on their own. Again, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves but please leave me and mine out of it.
Here's the part where I can't stop grinning. My older daughters' friends, one in particular, began texting Ben to wish him a happy birthday and to share in his excitement over having his own phone. And it wasn't just one line. The exchanges went on and on and they continue:
Those are just some of their text conversations. This is a mature, intelligent, talented girl with good friends, a job, and all the usual teenage trimmings and trappings. I'm certain those usual teenage things also include stress and self-doubt and confusion. Yet, she has taken the time to befriend our boy, take him on as another big sister to another little brother, if you will. And she's patient and nice and fun, but she still corrects him and keeps him on a positive path. Yes, the word "racist," along with the fake names and the random body-part terms, is all part of 12-year-old boy humor-- trust me.
So, if you still think the phase of teenagehood is comprised of brooding and backtalking and plotting graffiti art, read the texts again. Have a giggle with me, and thank God for my kids' friends. I know it's not cool for Mom to say, but this is so cool.