18 Pearls for 18 Years

Today my firstborn turns 18. Yes, I now have three older children, but boy child bears responsibility for turning me into a mother, a mommy, and a woman besotted.

When discussing his birthday gift, the girls said “Oh, that’s easy, you get pearls on your 18th birthday!” Yes, that’s the birthday the girls get pearls. Unfortunately, Tiffany, their little blue boxes, and boy child, don’t quite agree that a mommy can go pick up a string of pearls, write a mushy note, and be done with 18th birthday memory making.

Instead I share eighteen pearls with you about my son. He claims never to have read his birthday posts, so yes, these pearls are for you and for me.

  1. My mother said that we watched newborn Joseph like television. I rolled my eyes at the time. I still roll my eyes. But the truth: I do. No shows have ever engaged me like the mesmerizing boy I gave birth to 18 years ago.
  2. He’s a feminist. Really. I wish I could credit parenting, but we’ve six children and well, he’s the most feminist of the bunch.
  3. He listens. He listens when you talk to him. He listens to you talk to others. You may think he’s oblivious to everything, but he studies people and their interactions like other boys study basketball and football games.
  4. Speaking of basketball, he doesn’t like basketball. He doesn’t like boats. This doesn’t stop a frequent statement in this house: “Joseph LIKES basketball!”
  5. Another statement in the house: “Look Joseph, there’s a digger!” This came about when Denise and the girls became aware of the parental habit to say “Look Joseph! There’s a digger!” while driving. It started (and continues) as a dig at our habit to cater to the wonder that entered the world eighteen years ago. It annoys me. It annoys Joseph. At the same time, it has become a bit of the family mythology of Joseph and a “mommy and me” thing. Yes, I got him the silver monogrammed digger clock from Lillian Vernon. No, it hasn’t been hidden away. I sort of think it is on the list of “Most Likely” to go to college with him items. Or it may stay here–a monument of sorts.
  6. He doesn’t rush. Ever. He insists on punctuality, yet never wants to arrive (or have others wait) early. He knows precisely how long something takes and he takes that time.
  7. That said, I must also say he’s rigid about routine. He likes a routine. He will cling to it. He’s annoyed by a change of routine (unless he has chosen it). There was a period of time when I thought to try new recipes for Tuesday Night Dinner. It didn’t matter what I served with those new recipes, chosen to entice the children, he didn’t touch it. This perplexed me. He’s not (and never was) a particularly picky eater in the “I won’t try new things.” kind of way. I could have made the same recipe on a Saturday and there’d be no problem. In fact, a few items that were hits with the rest of the family were made again on a weekend and he’d love them. It took us a bit of time before we figured out that after a day of school and whatever else had happened since we had last seen him, what he wanted was something predictable for dinner.
  8. He took his time learning to read. While I say the children learned to read in self-defense, since I read aloud poorly, he took his time. He listened to (and still listens) audio books long after other kids gave them up. He loves books. He just didn’t fall into them. I worried over this for YEARS. Then I prodded him with a YA book I had picked up. One after another book fell to compulsive reading. He’d always read, but suddenly he READ.
    What’s fascinating about his reading isn’t those things though. The fascinating thing is to discuss a book with him. Books I suffered through in high school come alive in a discussion with him. I want to read them again. I want to know why I wasn’t taught the books in this way–a discussion that explores the book or a character or motivations or metaphor in an engaging way.
  9. That said, he can ramble a book or topic in school until you are convinced he could write at least a senior thesis on it, but he won’t have written a single paragraph about it yet for school. His perfection stands in his way here as does the fact that the prescribed questions or topic isn’t what he wants to talk about in the book. In the past two years, he’s gotten much better at either making the assignment suit his desires and as school work advances, he has more options. When you see his written work, you find it well worth the wait in most cases.
  10. Speaking of written, he’s got a unique voice in his writing. He thought to trick me by posting anonymous comments on a site where I work. I pegged him right away. Multiple times.
  11. He has beautiful, long, golden brown hair with a bit of a curl. When younger, it tended toward coarse and we had it cut stereotypically boy short. He grew it out and while uncertain about it (particularly when it was in the puff of doom stage before ponytail length.)
  12. He also has impressive facial hair. This amuses me and befuddles me because his father didn’t have impressive facial hair early and my father had very little body hair. He shaved for the first time this year after years of me thinking he should shave. He still doesn’t shave often, because  of preference, not because there isn’t anything to shave–there is certainly hair to shave.
  13. When people say a person looks like someone else, I never see it. I do with Joseph. He looks like me. He looks like his father. He looks like Rebecca. (in fact, attending the same HUGE high school has been full of quirky encounters because the two of them look so much alike…including approximately the same length hair.) From the back, you really do need to pay attention or know both well to tell the difference.
  14. He’s got a wicked sense of humor. Really, wicked is the right word. He has a degree in snark and sarcasm. You also will really know when he means to wound you with his words.
  15. Speaking of wound: don’t let him poke you. His index fingers are the fingers are poking doom. He finds just the right place on your arm and you will have an aching bruise. He perfected this early.
  16. When he gets to talking to you, you will not get him to stop. (hmm, wonder where he got that from? Sorry.) He’s either silent or expounds on whatever the topic of choice is at that moment. He will know it all and be the expert. (or believe he is. Again. Sorry) It usually is a fascinating conversation.
  17. That brings up this other quirk: he’s incredibly narrowly focused. Whatever his interest, he will learn everything about it that he can. He will talk it to death. He will engage you in it. Airplanes (yes, I still remember fuel capacities of the airplanes in his decidedly non-kid airplane book as a toddler), Pokemon, grilled cheese, Runescape, Japan (and all things Japanese), Dr. Who–all notable. He’s a specialist.
  18. All that said, you may wonder is he a specialist or the “special-ist?” Here is the last pearl and probably the least surprising. This boy of mine spins me like a top. I love him and hang on his words, his movements, his thoughts. Yes, the sun rises and sets with him. He’s entitled, secure in his place, knows he is the prince of his domain. He theoretically knows his Thanksgiving birthday didn’t mean that a national holiday was created for him, but he also knows that we do give thanks for this young man. He is my favorite 18-year-old boy. He is a combination of generous, sweet, self-assured, bright,  and beautiful. He’s annoying, compelling, sensitive and well, fascinating.

Now if you made it to the end, you are no doubt tired of the praise of boy child. I know I am when I read birthday posts on other people’s blogs, yet I do it just the same. Of course, in my case, it is because I got really lucky with amazing kids.

One day all too soon, they will all be adults. I’ll be the mom who pushes them from the nest, knowing they are ready to take on the world, while I shed tears and think (and say) “Wait! I am not ready! This is my baby! I need more time.”

He’s my firstborn. He is 18. I am not ready. I want more time.


  1. Look Joseph! There’s a digger!

  2. I say “look Charlie, there’s a digger/firetruck/police car/hot rod/whatever type of vehicle” while in the car. Nowadays Charlie is the one saying “mommy, look there’s a while in the car.

    This is lovely by the way. I hope to write such a wonderful love letter to Charlie when he’s 18. Plus I want pearls for my 18th birthday!

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