I was stumped. My son Declan’s 13th birthday was approaching, and I had no good ideas.
He loves watching sports but already has jerseys for the teams he likes. He doesn’t play a sport himself, though, so equipment wasn’t a good option. Believe it or not, he’s not that into video games, either – he will play Temple Run or Fruit Ninja on his iTouch, but that’s about it.
He doesn’t read for pleasure, so books were out. He did say he wanted a Sponge Bob cake for his birthday, so at least I knew I’d make that for him, but the cake would be quickly consumed with nothing but a photo to remember it by.
I wracked my brain. I queried my friends. I asked his brother and sister and my boyfriend Tony to get some ideas, and you know what they came up with? Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Thirteen is a big one! Puberty is well under way and the marking of the teen years is official with this one, so why couldn’t I come up with any good ideas?!
At one point, I felt a crisis of maternal conscious: Did I not know him well enough to come up with a good gift idea? Had he slipped away, and I didn’t even know him anymore? I had to slap myself around a bit and remember that his birthday wasn’t supposed to be about me, and wallowing in that place wasn’t going to get me any closer to a gift idea, so I shifted gears away from my maternal guilt fest and put on my thinking cap.
Google to the rescue
Google! Of course! Why hadn’t I thought about that earlier! Google knows EVERYTHING and can certainly give me the perfect gift idea with just a few keystrokes! So I entered “Popular birthday gifts for 13 year old boy,” and you know what I came up with? Video games and sports equipment and iPod stuff. Shoot! Google had failed me!
Then it hit me: A game! Of course! A real game! You know, one with a board and dice or cards or something. Declan loves card games! And with the help of "the WWW" as I call it, I came up with – drumroll please – NOTHING! Yep, apparently we had every game already.
Back to the drawing board.
I started to frantically scrutinize Declan’s every action and interest (however fleeting) to see if I could come up with a good gift. Unfortunately, it seems that nearly all 13-year-old boys like to spend A LOT of time alone in their rooms (hmmm), and I was getting nowhere fast.
Think, Molly. Think!
And then it hit me like a scene from a movie where the clouds part and gentle symphonic music plays the "Aha" theme: A karaoke machine. Brilliant!
Declan loves to sing and has an iTouch full of songs that are "clean" (or so I’ve been told), and he would love it! Back to "the WWW" to find the perfect one. This time I met with success. I chose one in which he can dock his iTouch and the main singer’s voice is hushed a bit by the machine while the music plays on. It is all housed in a stand-up microphone with speakers at the base. Clean lines, not clunky at all. DONE!
It's a hit!
When the big day came and Declan opened his gifts, I was delighted to find that the karaoke player was a huge hit. Declan and I even sang a few Adele songs together to the little crowd gathered to celebrate his birthday. The microphone was inaugurated.
It turns out Declan isn’t likely to win the next The Voice contest, but he and I loved sharing the moments together. And unlike many other gifts I’ve deigned to give over the years this one isn’t collecting dust; it’s used every day.
Even when I cringe at the noise of Eminem or Lil Wayne being channeled I smile knowing that I am still connected to my emerging young man, and we can share a new love of singing in the years to come. And you know what? He spends less time alone in his room! Bonus!