Alex: I'm sooo happy I finally lost my front teeth!
Me: Why is that?
Alex: Because now I'll get my man-teeth!
Me: But how will you eat corn on the cob?
Alex: You can cut it for me.
Alex: You can make applesauce.
Me: You have it all figured out, don't you?
Alex: Don't worry. It's only temporary.
Me: Isn't everything?
Alex turned seven on Sunday. Seven. Wait, wasn't it day before yesterday the doctor handed him to me, a big bundle of 10 lb, 9 oz baby boy? Wasn't it yesterday that he crawled, then walked, then ran and never stopped for a moment since?
This year, Alex learned to read, learned to do a handstand, mastered his kung fu yellow and orange belts, taught his class about mummies and pharoahs, lost four teeth, and grew to be over four feet tall. He cut his own hair under the desk at school when the teacher wasn't looking, and decided definitively that he no longer like sweet potatoes.
He is a teller of tales and an actor, a natural performer with no fear of being front and center. He learned hip-hop dancing and subtraction and how to color inside the lines. He made friends in the neighborhood and in far-off places like Greenland and Hawaii. He challenged us and showered us with affection, and always, always kept our lives full of love and hope.
This year, the traces of the sweet baby face receded, and the face of a child emerged, with glimpses of the teenager and the young man we will face in the future. The man-teeth, I fear, are only the beginning of all the changes yet to come.
When Alex was about a year old, I was talking to a dad who had a three year-old. "Does it get any easier?" I asked.
"No," he said, "it just gets different."
I know what he meant now. Parenting never really gets easier, the challenges just evolve from year to year. It's the joy that remains constant.
Happy Birthday, Alex. Thank you for the seven best and hardest years of my life.