Yesterday was my youngest’s birthday. Royce was born on December 21st, 2000, which makes him nine years old now. December 21st is the winter solstice, that day that fascinated superstitious cultures enough to build entire winter festivals around it. On December 21st, 2012 Royce will be twelve years old. That’s how old Jesus was when Joseph and Mary found him in Jerusalem’s temple sitting in the midst of Judaism’s most brilliant minds, listening to them and asking them questions (Luke 2:41-50). December 21st, 2012 is also the day the ancient Mayan calendar stops. I’m sure all these facts link together somehow in regards to Royce. I’m just not sure how.
Royce is the son I never expected to have. All along “he” was supposed to be “she.” Isn’t “Rachel” a beautiful name for a girl? But the first time I saw my second child on ultrasound it was very obvious that the name “Rachel” wouldn’t apply. To be honest, I’m still recovering from that initial curveball that Royce threw me. Even after nine years of living with him, studying him, and trying to figure him out, I still find myself frequently asking the question, “Why did he do that?” Tonya says he had to be my polar opposite because my oldest, Ryan, got every last gene and chromosome that I had to give. Since Ryan is my clone, I can’t argue with that logic.
Yesterday was a case in point of how differently Royce and I think. For his birthday, I wanted to load up the four of us and drive an hour to a place called Fun Depot. Maybe you’ve seen these kind of places. It’s a warehouse-type facility that offers video games, skeetball, putt-putt, laser tag, batting cages, and jungle gyms. A kid can lose a whole day there just running around like a wild man. I thought, “Royce will love this idea.”
From the onset, though, Tonya had her doubts about that being the best gift we could give him. He’d been talking about how much he’d like to have a friend over for his birthday. So, we called him into the living room and laid out the two options. After explaining that taking a friend with him to Fun Depot wasn’t on the list, he chose to have a friend come to the house and spend the day.
The whole experience served as a reminder to me that our classes in parenting are never out. Even as we teach our kids, they teach us. They teach us that we can’t predict their every move. They teach us that each child is unique and must be allowed to grow and blossom in his or her own way. They teach us that our preferences are not necessarily their preferences. They teach us that we should stay on our knees in prayer, asking God for guidance as to how to raise them rightly.
Royce had a good 9th birthday. I’m sure he will remember it. I went and picked up his little friend and brought him to the house. I followed that up by going to the grocery store and buying one of those cookie-cakes that Royce loves so much. Then I went to MacDonalds and brought back some grub. Royce dove into the french fries, opened his presents with glee, blew out the candles on the cookie-cake, and had a blast playing with his buddy for a few hours.
Late last night, just before Royce went to bed, Tonya asked him to name his favorite part of his birthday. He immediately chose having his friend over. That verified one more time to me that we’d carried out the right birthday plan. I don’t know if we’ll ever make it to Fun Depot, but I do know that we did exactly what we were supposed to do yesterday. After all, a kid only gets one 9th birthday in life, and you ought to let him spend it the way he wants to spend it.