He’s Benough
Watching from afar as the cutest baby hits high school

Years ago, I wrote a column with the subhead: “The cutest baby turns 1,” and talked about celebrating the first birthday of my nephew’s new baby, Benjamin. It had been so many years since a baby had been born into my extended family (10 years to be exact), I wanted to write about how the arrival of this little one had brought us all so much joy.            

Ben is now a sophomore in high school, and he is still doing that. He’s been joined over the years by incredible siblings and cousins, who all have filled our family with jolts of youth and excitement and happiness. But because Ben was first, we are watching him create this path, establish who he is as a person, and quite simply, light the world on fire. 

It’s funny, because I could easily say I watched my daughters do the same thing. But this is different. Maybe because I don’t have the responsibility of raising Ben. Maybe because I have no expectations, no financial burdens (so awesome), and no decision-making powers. I don’t even see Ben that often, although I do DM him every now and then, and there are always special holiday or birthday dinners. 

At one of those holiday dinners when Ben was in grade school, he told us all he was learning to play the trombone and would play for us after dinner. When it came time, he described with much excitement what he was about to play: C.  We were a little confused until he played one note, for about 3 seconds. He stopped and looked at us, expecting a reaction. We broke out into cheers and applause, and he said he would do it again. Another note for 3 seconds, another round of applause. He played the scale of notes, one at a time. And it was perfect.

Year after year, I’ve enjoyed standing on the sidelines and watching Ben, in awe. It’s a very happy place to be, because Ben’s life is so full. Like many people in our family, he’s interested in musical theater and has appeared in his high school shows. My brother – Ben’s grandfather – was in musicals at his high school all 4 years. (Fun fact, my brother “married” his high school girlfriend in 2 of those shows, which was pretty good casting, because they’ve been married now for 45 years.)

But when I watch Ben on stage, he reminds me of my brother. It’s weird to see Ben perform, decades after my brother, and pick up on all these similarities. They both have a way of capturing your attention and making you feel happy. Ben shines up there. And when he comes off stage, he shines even more. 

Earlier this year, Ben’s school put on “Matilda,” and after the show, he rushed out to see about 17 of us who had showed up to clap loudly for our star. He said he had to get backstage fast but wanted to say hi, and he hugged every one of us, chatting with us and thanking us for coming. I mean, he’s 16. Yet he was gracious and considerate and so very loving. 

A few weeks later, my nephew sent us a video of Ben performing “I’m just Ben” (a very funny take on “I’m just Ken” from the Barbie Movie) at a Friday night event at his high school. He had the outfit, vocals and attitude down perfect. And most of all, he was clearly having fun. So everyone else – even those of us watching on our phones – smiled and laughed and felt his contagious energy. He posted on Instagram and his sister Madeline commented, Can you feel the Benergy! We all could.

The day Ben was born, there was this spark of positivity that just swept through my whole family. I remember how exciting the day was, how happy we were to meet this special human. But really, Ben didn’t just come into my family, he joined the world. I think that makes us all so very lucky. 


Follow @mariannealeardi on Instagram


Read more “Wide Awake” by Marianne Aleardi

April 2024
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