A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sweet 16?

I'm not talking about March Madness anymore. It's April. Kansas made it past the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight, the Final Four and won the NCAA tournament in an historic comeback win over Memphis in overtime (just realized I never posted about the championship game...I think I've been in shock all week). No, I'm talking about Sweet 16 birthdays.

As I mentioned in my last post, Monday was Shelby's 16th birthday. Well, tonight is Shelby's Sweet 16 birthday party. So, here I sit, trapped in a house with a dozen teenage girls. And I find myself wondering, "What's so sweet about 16-year-olds?

Actually, Shelby's friends are good kids. Yes, they all talk at the same time at a decibel level equivalent to a Ted Nugent concert, but at least they're here, having fun being silly, rather than out causing trouble. But sweet? Not sure that's the right adjective.

When I think back to my own 16th birthday party, I wasn't exactly sweet myself. And I wouldn't say the day itself was sweet, either, but it was a day to remember. May 15, 1980. I had a forensics tournament that day. No, I wasn't studying to be a Crime Scene Investigator. I was on the speech team. And since the tournament was right after school, I got to wear a suit to school (I know, hard to believe a geek like me was one of the "cool kids" in high school).

My family picked me up at West Springfield High School after the tournament and took me to the local Mickey D's for my birthday dinner. So, there I am eating a Big Mac in my best corduroy suit (above left, circa 1980) with my mom and dad, little sister Denise and brother Evan (at left, circa 1982, after I had caught up with the fashion trends of the 80s!). I wasn't a happy camper. In protest, I refused to let them bring gifts into the restaurant.

On the way home from my "Sweet 16 Party" at McDonald's I let loose on my parents. "I can't believe you had my 16th birthday party at McDonald's...you threw a surprise party for Jon (my older brother) on his 16th!"

"We did?" they said, as if they didn't remember.

"Don't you remember?" I said, "It was at Happy Joe's" (Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor in Topeka, KS). But they still didn't remember...or so I thought.

When we got home (at left, our house in Burke, VA), I stomped up the walk, ready to escalate the protest into a full-on tantrum. But when I opened the door I was greeted by (you guessed it) all my friends. My parents had very cleverly -- no cruely -- orchestrated the ultimate surprise party.

Ah. Sweet 16. High school. If I could transport myself back in time...I wouldn't. Skinny. Awkward. Braces. Hair (on our heads, but not on our chests). Girls (scary, wonderful, mean girls). Would you go back?

Maybe knowing what I know now I would...nah.

[Above, from left: Brad Phillips, Kevin Galligan and my brother Jon; At left: the Kavanaugh brothers, Steve and Mike]

But I can look back with fond memories. And I can try my best to make it less painful for Shelby, by not trying too hard. Our little girl isn't a little girl anymore (at left with my dad, three days old). In two short years she'll be off to college.

Our job as parents in the next two years is to start letting go...and hang on as long as we can.



  1. First of all, you made me cry.

    Second, where did you find those pictures???


  2. Oh my goodness -- you had me really worried there for a paragraph -- how could we have not planned something cool for your 16th birthday -- at least as good as what we planned for Jon! Thankfully, we didn't let you down -- or did we? I couldn't tell for sure. Great pictures; you did look young -- guess I was young, too -- going on the big 40 in July. And, how old are you? I love you and thanks for the memories. (Where is the picture of your young mom?)

  3. Denise -- I have a lot more where those came from. Mom -- I do have some pictures of my "young mom" but it makes me feel old to realize that you were four years younger than I am now when I turned 16! You and dad seemed so OLD! FUnny how your perspective changes with each passing year :)


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