In less than three days, my baby boy is officially going to be 18 months old. Never has the quote “The days are long, but the years are short” resonate so profoundly in me the moment I became a mother. My son will officially be known in Dutch culture as “anderhalf” (One and a half years old), just six months shy of being categorized as a “Peuter” (name for two to four year olds). Six months away from the terrible two’s (though in all honesty, I’ve been right in the middle of eccentric, strong-willed, classical two year old antics).
Thinking of his impending half-birthday made my mind wander to the next culturally significant milestone (for my Filipino parents) – his seventh birthday. According to Filipino tradition, the 7th birthday is considered an important milestone. Curiosity got the better of me so I decided to do my own research on exactly why is this particular birthday so special. I was actually quite disappointed to find out there there is no reliable source of information, or actual consensus as to why this age is so important to merit such pomp and circumstance. Perhaps it’s just another excuse to throw a celebration for party-loving Filipinos?
(Junior on his 1st birthday celebration: photo courtesy of Melody Rae)
Nonetheless, we will be throwing Junior a very special seventh birthday celebration. Writer Nell Minow eloquently articulates the importance of celebrations (such as family weddings), stating “Life does not give you a choice about the sad and the scary. They seek you out and track you down. Happy occasions hide behind the illusion that there will be a better time and another chance. But there will never be another moment to share this experience with these people.”
In the spirit of his future seventh birthday, I decided to make a list of seven things I want him to know by the time he turns seven.
1. Play is important
Please don’t be in a rush to grow up. If me and/or our dad seem to forget your need to play and explore, kindly remind us that childhood only happens once. Play with all your heart child. It’s our responsibility as your parents to make sure you have a happy one. And yes, childhood and play is synonymous in our humble opinion.
2. You are American and Dutch. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. More accurately, you are a citizen of the world. Your grandparents are Filipino, your godfather is Italian, and your godmother is South African. Some of your parents dearest friends (near and far) are Singaporean, Australian, Russian, Portuguese, Indonesian, Irish and Pakistani. Back in the U.S., your mom’s friends are African-American, Mexican-American, Nicaraguan-American, Chinese-American, Peruvian-American and White-American. The world is a beautiful place my child and embrace the gift of having so many cultures welcomed into our home.
3. Always have a kind heart. In comparison to the rest of the world, you were born with a silver spoon. Some would argue that because you’re born half-Dutch, you’re possibly one of the luckiest kids in the world because you’ll have your life pretty much set for you. However, that doesn’t make you entitled to feeling better than everyone else. Be kind. [ On that note, you should also know that you’re not entitled to anything (except your parents love). The world doesn’t owe you anything son and you have to work to make the world a better place.]
4. Know your manners. Saying please, thank-you, excuse-me and you’re welcome will be part of your daily vernacular. You will greet older adults as “auntie” and “uncle” regardless of whether or not they are actually blood relatives because it is a sign of reverence. Respect, on the other hand, is something that is earned and not freely given. However, that is also not an excuse to ever be rude.
5. Ask questions. I already know you’re such a curious little fellow. It’s my responsibility as a parent to nurture your curiosity. While at times your strong-will and eagerness to explore the world and discover new things may seem a bit exhausting for your mother, it’s essential for you to continue asking questions. If I don’t know the answer to your question, we can both sit down in front of a computer and google the answers.
6. You can always talk to me and your dad. No matter how busy or hectic our life may seem, know that we will always make the time to talk. You can tell me and your father absolutely anything and nothing you can ever tell us will make us love you or think of you any differently. We’re here to listen. You have a voice.
7. You will always be loved. Always. Never question that. You will always be loved by me whether I’m around or not. I’m a part of your heart (and you’re a part of mine) -my love for you will always be there no matter what.