This week marked another milestone in my life. My oldest son, James, celebrated his 16th birthday. I would say he is "sweet 16," but he's a young man, and wouldn't appreciate his name and the word "sweet" in the same sentence.
When I turned 16 (just a few years ago), my mother gave me a "Sweet 16 Tea." All my friends and I dressed to the nines and sat around trying to act sophisticated. We drank punch from dainty little glass cups and ate bite-size morsels of food we couldn't pronounce.
James' 16th birthday was quite a contrast from mine. The night of his birthday, we held a family barbecue. Before the dinner, I was sitting on the couch, musing as most mothers do, about how quickly the time passes. I thought of the little toddler James, with his bright blonde hair, pudgy face, and big round green eyes. He was always a quiet child who soaked in the events happening around him. I thought proudly of what a nice man he's becoming.
About that time, what sounded like wild elephants tramped into the room. There before me, stood my son: unruly curls emerging from underneath a Georgia Bulldog fitted baseball cap worn backwards on his head, baggy shorts with big, floppy pockets holding a cell phone and butcher-sized pocket knife (it's for hunting, and it only appears that big to his mother), a brightly colored rubber band on his wrist, and a keychain hanging out of his pocket almost down to his ankle.
He bore no resemblance to the quiet little toddler, or the nice man in my visions. But, as the evening passed on, I not-surprisingly found both images there. Yes, he ate barbecued ribs like he was uncivilized, but he also remembered his manners. He opened his gifts with delight, which brought pleasure to the family. His expressions of gratitude were genuine.
The next day, we held another party for his friends. Again, the contrast is remarkable. Seven giant-sized young men invaded our quiet afternoon for a time of pizza, football, and paintball. They weren't dressed to the nines, unless that is the description for camouflage and masks. And the only sophistication was in the elaborate military-style strategy of the paintball war.
As the mother of boys, I enjoyed it all. Many years from now, when James is a man out on his own, I hope I never forget the fun weekend that he turned 16. In four years, my youngest son will turn 16. Now, I know what to expect.