On the eve of my son's twentieth birthday, I am given to thinking about how birthdays and specifically birthday presents, have changed. Many years ago, we would walk the toy isles of our local Zellers and Walmart. looking for the perfect gifts. Zellers is now gone - long gone. Walmart is still around, of course. For a few years, when he was quite young, our son was really into super heroes. He referred to them as "his guys". He would line up "his guys" along the side of his little single bed which was pushed up against the wall for less of a chance of falling out of bed. He was particularly fond of Spiderman.
Then came Lego. Lego is wonderful. Lego is crazy expensive, especially when you buy special kits. But honestly, he still has every piece of Lego we ever bought him, or Papa and Nana bought him, or he got from other people for Christmas or birthdays. I truly didn't mind buying Lego because it was time well spent.
Video games. The advent of video games coincided with staying in his room more - to be expected as he went through those teenage years. But he was also a sporty kid, so soccer balls, basketballs, and other sports paraphernalia were part of his gifts, but when you're born in January and you're a Canadian kid, receiving sports items is anti-climactic as it's a little tough to go out and kick a ball around in thigh deep snow.
Then clothes. But clothes are hard. As a tall, slender boy it was sometimes hard to find clothes that would fit properly. When he was younger, the pants with the elastic in the waistband and the buttons and button-holes were a godsend! We could get them long enough and then he could cinch them in at his waist so they wouldn't fall down. But as he got older, out of the two kids, he cared more about what he was wearing. He liked certain brands, certain looks. Daughter just wanted volume - more clothes versus particular name brands of clothes. Son, instead, had fewer pieces, but exactly what he wanted. He just did laundry more often. He's still like that.
Now? Well, now it's best when your young adult children lead you directly to what they desire. Show me the link, the website, sit down with me and I'll pay for it on Paypal. True, the surprise is taken out of it, but better that, than items that sit unused, unworn, unwanted. I imagine some parents give money, or gift cards. Again, that way the receiver gets exactly what they want. But it's a little sad. So what is son getting this year? Well, I highly doubt he reads my blog, but since it isn't quite his birthday yet, I won't reveal. But it's what he wants, and the other part is practical, what he needs now that he's away from home, at school.
Do you know what doesn't change, though? The tradition of it all. I still baked the same chocolate layer cake that I always bake - that never changes, even though I ask my family if they'd like something different, the answer is always no - it must be the chocolate layer cake. I will still hang up the happy birthday sign on the wall in the kitchen. We will still sing to him. But this year, he may well end up going out with the gang on the night of his birthday, and just be with mom and dad for supper. I get that, and I'm totally ok with that. I always felt a little bad that his birthday was so close to Christmas - did it make it less exciting, being as he just had an exciting holiday with presents? But I guess it's all he's ever known.
We always played a game with the presents - hiding them in various locations and then our kids would go searching in the house while we guided them with "warmer", "cooler", "hotter" "boiling!!" until they found each one. As they got older, the hiding spots became more challenging. We may still do that tomorrow!
Yes, he will be twenty years old tomorrow. I sometimes can't even believe it. When did it all happen? But for Christmas this year, he still got a tiny Lego kit, and when I stopped by his room to chat with him yesterday, he showed me the finished product. It warms my heart.