Birthday Stories: A Memorable 16th Year

The boys

On Thursday, Cole turned 17. Some parents take their kids out for pizza or a steak dinner for their birthdays, but not me—nope, I took Cole and a friend out for a four-course, three-hour fondue dinner. I sat in a booth with my newly minted 17-year-old and his 16-year-old friend, surrounded by couples trying to have romantic dinner. The boys had good manners, but they did fall into a fit of giggles a couple of times. The gentleman across from us caught their giggles, and I could tell his date was not amused. Obviously the girl he was with was all wrong for him. Boys are so silly!

The evening was a success, from the cheese to the chocolate. (Speaking of chocolate, I had a divine chocolate martini called a Yin and Yang: One side was white chocolate and the other side was dark chocolate. Yin and yang, of course, represent the two opposite sides of nature.)

yin and yang

There has been a lot of yin and yang this year as Cole and I moved through his 17th year. Flashing back over the past year, here a few memorable moments…


Cole: Mom, can Paul, Jim, Mary and Jenny* come over?

Me: Sure!

YES!!! Our house, safe and sound. I will buy snacks and pizza and make sloppy Joes.

Cole: Can they spend the night?

Me: All of them?

Cole: Yes.

Me: But Mary and Jenny are girls.

Cole: I know, but I have known them my whole life. They aren’t really girls.

A long conversation, and many promises later, I lost my mind and agreed.

It was not a comfortable night for me. Like, really, was I going to go upstairs and check on everyone? “Hi, how’s everyone doing? Anybody want popcorn?” I kept thinking Joe was really missing out. The next morning, Cole came into the kitchen. I looked at him and did a double take.

Me: Honey, how did you get that bruise on your neck?

I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Cole: It’s not a bruise, Mom.

Me: It’s a hickey?

Cole: You know what a hickey is?

Well, I’ve read about them.

Me: How did you get a hickey?

Brilliant, I know.

Cole: The usual way.

I just stared at him for a minute.

Me: But you promised me you were all just friends.

I wanted to yell, “YOU PROMISED!”

Cole: Mom, we are just friends.

I’m so confused.

Me: But you have a hickey. Doesn’t that usually mean more than friendship?

Doesn’t it?!!!! 

Cole: No. I just wanted to see what a hickey felt like.

I guess that is what friends are for.

I decided from that point on, co-ed sleepovers were a bad idea. In case you are judging my lack of common sense (MOTHER!), may I just say I am in the minority? ALL the other parents are saying yes.

*Names changed to protect the guilty.


This past holiday season, the kids in Cole’s class pulled Secret Santa names. Cole picked the name of a girl he has been friends with since first grade.

Me: What do you plan to buy for Melanie’s Secret Santa gift?

Cole: She likes this special kind of tea and has always wanted a street sign.

Mom: Tea sounds like a real nice gift.

Cole: Yep, I will probably buy her the tea.

Do you hear the set-up?

Mom: Good idea. TEA is a great gift.

Cole: Yep.

Ha. I’m not falling for it, so I Google information about stealing street signs, including how to properly do it and the consequences. I make sure Cole knows that the theft of street signs is a bad idea but stop signs and traffic signs are forbidden and e-mail him the information.

This main part of the story ends here. However, here is the follow-up conversation a few weeks later…

Me: No, you are not wearing pajama bottoms to school. No way. No, not even if they don’t have a fly. No pajama bottoms.

Cole: Mom, I just don’t get you. I tell you I’m thinking about stealing a street sign and you send me Google instructions, but I want to wear pajama bottoms to school and you have a fit.

You’ve gotta stand for something, or you will fall for anything. No pajama bottoms.


My kid is very patient, low-key and slow to get angry. However, once he is ticked off and decided he hates you, there is no going back.

Cole: The new main lesson teacher is awful. Awful. I cannot stand him.

Me: Well, I’m glad it’s just a 10 day main lesson block.

Cole: I cannot stand him. I will never get through the class. He is the worst teacher ever. EVER.

I said all the things you are supposed to say…about how there are people you have to learn to get along with, that he should turn it into a contest for himself and find one thing he could like about the teacher every day, etc. Finally, on the third day, I told him to suck it up and get along. Enough already! But after my tirade. . .

Cole: You don’t understand at all.

Me: Cole, what don’t I understand? You hate this teacher: worst teacher in the whole entire world, there is no hope of improvement and you will more than likely be permanently damaged by having to sit in his class for an hour and a half once a day for 10 days. And the worst part is, there is nothing—NOTHING—you can do about it.

Cole: No, Mom. The worst part is, he looks like a giraffe. And not in a good way.

Got it!


The boys

Sipping my cocktail, watching the boys spar in the fondue pot with their forks, I also remembered the times parents have called or stopped to tell me how Cole always waits for his friends to walk safely inside before driving off, or that he never fails to walk the girl to the door. I have observed that my son has a ready handshake and is easily able to chat with everyone from toddlers to seniors. His level of empathy reaches far and wide as he helps the homeless person lift his cart over the curb, and as he expresses distaste toward anyone who is mean to another person. Every day, Cole makes me laugh, for better and worse, at the sublime and the ridiculous.

Silently, I lifted my cocktail up and toasted Joe. I know he is looking down on Cole and thinking much the same thing I am…How in the world did we get so damn lucky!?


Odd Loves Company.

21 thoughts on “Birthday Stories: A Memorable 16th Year

  1. I love the giggle video. He (or you) will look back on that in 10 or 20 years and still giggle.

    Giraffe!!! Now I’m giggling.

    Most Excellent post!!!

    • “Looks like a giraffe in a bad way”…Can not wait to meet this teacher…I hope in a good way!! Thank you.

  2. So sweet. I know in my heart Joe was giggling along with boys. You two have raised an amazing young man.

    • You are right, Joe was giggling. Especially, when the gal at the other table was getting a little peeved. Thanks!

  3. He’s so cute! And you’ve really done a great job raising him. Happy birthday to Cole!

    And I hope with all my chocolate-covered heart that the chocolate went all the way down in that drink.

  4. One of these days, you’re going to look back and ask, Was it worth it? And you’re going to nod, smile, and say, Definitely!

    You (and Joe) ARE blessed. Not everybody gets a son who tells them stuff (especially the hard-to-hear stuff!). Not everybody gets a son who’s kind-hearted, compassionate, friendly, and funny. You did! Pat yourself on the back and know you’re doing something right!

    • Lol–It’s worth it right now. I love (almost) every minute of the teen years…fascinating and fun. We are very blessed, Thank You!

  5. well done, mom & joe! buckle up for year 18.
    your yin yang looked pretty darn good!
    yes, the guy’s date needs to lighten up.

    • Thanks. It always a wild ride around here but I would not miss it for the world.
      I think that date may have been the last one….just sayin’

  6. I hope when you meet this teacher ( who looks like a giraffe), you don’t get the giggles thinking about this. There is no luck involved in raising a good son. God has Blessed you, Katybeth.

    • With luck, I won’t meet this teacher because I am pretty sure that I would lose it.
      Thank you–I am very blessed, indeed.

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