On a chalkboard wall inside Neva Gregory’s bedroom closet is a countdown to her birthday, a date she has been looking forward to far longer than the 57 days that are already marked off.
“This birthday is just a little bit cooler because I have been waiting for it for four years,” Neva said. “So I’m really, really excited.”
Depending on how you count, Neva turns 12 or 3 today. The sixth-grader at West Middle School is one of eight students in the Lawrence school district who was born Feb. 29, a date that comes around just once every four years.
“It’s really awesome, because when I’m really old, in my 90s, I’m going to be like 24,” Neva said.
Neva’s fellow leaplings agree on the awesomeness of being a leap year baby.
“It is special,” said Paris Spotted Tail, a second-grader at Schwegler School. “My grandma says if you are a leap year baby you get to have two birthdays.”
When asked how old she was, Paris described her age as “kind of 1 and kind of 7.”
Prairie Park second-grader Darby Van Fleet gives the same answer. In fact, when her teacher asks students to line up by age, she has to call for 8-year-olds, 7-year-olds and then 1-year-olds.
“They get confused,” Darby said of people’s response when she tells them she is 1 and 7. “Then I tell them I am a leap year baby.”
Molly Howell, a sixth-grader at Southwest Middle School, said people have a hard time believing her when she tells them she is 3.
“I like it because people are saying you are getting so old, and I’m really not,” Molly said.
The chances of being a leap year baby are one in 1,461. That statistic is fairly close to the one in Lawrence schools, where there are eight leap year babies among 11,052 students.
The odds make sixth-grade South Middle School Student A.J. Bennett feel pretty lucky.
“I feel pretty special for being a leap day baby,” he said.
He shares the birthday with Piper Seetin, both members of the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club.
“She says I’m her weird twin brother,” A.J. said of their birthday connection.
None of the leaplings have any extraordinary plans for celebrating their birthdays this year.
For Neva, the highlight will be finding out if her pregnant mom is going to have twin boys or twin girls.
“That’s my biggest birthday present,” she said. “And I’m getting my haircut, which is awesome.”
Piper said she has already had a sleep-over with friends to celebrate her birthday but plans to go to dinner with her mom and shopping downtown. On nonleap years, Piper celebrates on March 1.
“Because it is the day after (Feb. 28) and that is when I would have been born,” she reasons.
For the group of sixth-graders celebrating today, the next leap year birthday will be an even bigger milestone. They will be turning 16, or at least their classmates will be.
“I’ll get a car at age 4,” A.J. said.