Aireal Rook: ‘3 going on 16’

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Many parents think their children are growing up too quickly. For Matt and Kathy Rook, their daughter’s last birthday seems like years ago.

Because – in fact – it was.

Tomorrow is Leap Day, February 29th. It’s a day that rolls around once every four years and adds a day to the calendar – and it’s also Aireal Rook’s birthday.

Tomorrow she will be four.

Tomorrow she will be 16.

You figure it out.

“I guess it’s more special to actually have my birthday on February 29th when it comes around,” the Switzerland County High School freshman said. “But most years it gets confusing about when we’re going to have my birthday. Some years we celebrate on February 28th, and other years it’s March 1st.”

Aireal seems to enjoy the quirky nature of having an official birthday once every four years. She said that she’s thought about it more this year – but admits that she’d rather be spending her birthday watching the Pacers play in the Sectional – but after Tuesday’s loss she’ll have to make other plans.

“Some people can’t understand how I only have a birthday once every four years,” she says. “I guess I’ll be four and 16 on the same day – that is sort of strange.”

Aireal Rook says that she began to understand the uniqueness of her birthday when she was in middle school. She says that throughout elementary school her mom brought the birthday goodies to school just like every other child in her class, so she never really thought about it.

It’s a little strange for her parents, too.

“She was due on February 19th, and Matt’s dad (Jake Rook of Vevay) kept telling me that I was going to have her on Leap Day,” Kathy Rook remembers. “I kept telling him that there was no way I was going to go over that far – but I did.”

Kathy Rook says that she went into labor at 11 p.m. on February 28th; and before she and husband Matt headed to the hospital in Lawrenceburg, they had a stop to make.

“We went by Matt’s mom and dad’s and told him that unless I had her in the car on the way to the hospital, he was right,” Kathy Rook said with a laugh.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, February 29th, Aireal Rook became a very special baby with a very special birthday.

“Leap Day and Leap Year was never really significant to me until I had Aireal on February 29th,” Kathy Rook said. “Now it’s something that I think about quite a bit. It does cause some confusion – like never knowing when to have her birthday – but it also makes it special for her.”

So what are her birthday plans?

Aireal Rook said that her mom is taking her to get her hair dyed and to buy some new clothes for her birthday on Saturday – but the day that she’s really waiting for comes about a month later.

“I can’t wait to get my driver’s license,” she said with a smile. “I’ve only got a month left.”

A four year old with a driver’s license – now that’s something special.

– Pat Lanman