When Joshua was born, there were 5 of us mothers and babies who went to antenatal classes together. The first of our babies was born on Boxing Day 2000, then January 2001, two were both born on the 19 February 2001 and finally, two weeks later, Joshua made his overdue appearance on 5th of March 2001.The others were fed up waiting for us, as they were planning a meal to celebrate our babies; not only were we two weeks overdue but then we had 11 days in Special Care too. With our babies, we used to meet up at each other’s houses and when we went back to work after our maternity leaves, we took Thursdays off so that we could continue to meet up as our babies grew into toddlers, then 4/5 started the same nursery, then primary, school.
So the two other boys of the group of ‘Babies’, as I used to call them, turned 21 yesterday and their birthdays has always signified a countdown for Joshua’s, exactly a fortnight later. In the morning I was about to send their mothers’ birthday greetings , when I suddenly realised the stark differences between Joshua and his peers:
- Those two birthday boys, of course, have their own Facebook accounts, so I quickly addressed the birthday wishes to them personally, rather than via their mothers. Joshua, on the other hand, does not have his own mobile phone or laptop, nor his own Facebook account. I will happily accept any birthday wishes and greetings on Joshua’s behalf and will pass them onto him.
- I have seen photographs of their birthday celebrations and as they have been able to drink alcohol legally for three years now, their parties/family celebrations inevitably will have involved bubbly to toast the birthday boys, who were drinking beer. Joshua is older the legal age to drink, but has not acquired a taste for it, as yet. He consumes orange juice, pretty much exclusively and has only posed with his Dad’s pint of beer in his hand, with no intention of consuming any.
- One of these birthday boys is studying law at university, so he is on the brink of an exciting and rewarding career, while I have been celebrating a successful start to Joshua’s time in daycare this week. These young men are set on very different paths in life.
- If yesterday’s birthday boys have partners, then they will be involved in any birthday celebrations that took place, whereas Joshua does not have, nor is he likely to have in the future, a partner to share important life events with.
- Ordinarily a 21 year old would have a family gathering for their birthday and then they would have a wilder party with their friends. Joshua does not have this luxury, nor does he have sufficient real friends to populate a party. So instead he has the guest list that I have created for him : the people who I believe he likes the most, but even with this he has no real choice.
We have two ‘parties’ planned for Joshua’s 21st birthday : On 5th March, we are hosting a birthday lunch at our house for my sister and brother in law, niece and her fiance, Yorkshire Grandma and my best friend and her family. There will be food, balloons, fun and presents. The day after, we are having afternoon tea at the hotel where we had our wedding reception, with all of my husband’s side of the family, 16 of us in total. Both will no doubt be fun events and Joshua’s coming of age will be toasted and celebrated in style. But there is a tiny part of me that will be sad, and envious, that he could not experience a 21st birthday like his peers have done.