WEST CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — A four-year-old is signed up for drivers education this semester as a sophomore at Keene High School.
While William Holtzman of West Chesterfield, N.H., could be celebrating his "sweet 16," he's technically only turning four-years-old this year. Holtzman is a leap year baby.
"Whenever I'm in class and a teacher says 'you're acting like you're kindergartners,' I respond, 'I'm three years old, what do you expect?'" Holtzman joked.
This year is a leap year, which means there is an extra day this month – Feb. 29. So instead of having 365 days there will be 366. The people that care about this are often the "leaplings," those who were born on Feb. 29, because they finally are able celebrate the day on which they were born.
For most people, it's just another day and perhaps a time to score some special shopping deals at stores that take it as a marketing scheme. But what really is a leap year? One full day is how long it takes for the Earth to spin around exactly once, and a year is how long it takes for the Earth to orbit around the sun. In one full year, the Earth spins 365.25 times, and since it's impossible to have a quarter of a day, after four years, those .25 days accumulate to one full day, Feb. 29.
Holtzman technically doesn't have a birthday every year like most people, so his mom, Patty, has let him choose which day he wants to celebrate.
"We usually just celebrate March 1, but he always asks to do it earlier because he wants his presents sooner," said Patty.
Will admits that sometimes he tries to pull the pity card of not having a birthday like all the other kids, and sometimes he says, "why not celebrate two days instead of one?"
He added that in some of his experiences he has had to explain the concept of a leap year to friends and strangers. He reminisced about his 12th birthday (technically third), when his classmates sang, "how old are you now?" During the song the singers count up until the birthday boy/girl tells them to stop when they've reached their age. Will stopped them when they reached three and many of the students were very confused. It was a teachable moment.
But Will is not the only one who has had to explain to people why his actual age does not match his appearance. Shad Paynemeyer, born and raised in Putney, had some trouble getting into the bar for his 21st birthday when the bouncer thought he was pulling a fast one. It happened three years ago when Paynemeyer went out to a bar and a bouncer questioned if he had a fake ID.
"I had to explain to the dude about my birthday and leap year," said Paynemeyer.
Paynemeyer will celebrate his 24th birthday this year, but according to the calendar, this will be his sixth.
Aside from the struggles of having to explain the technicalities of being a leap year baby, Paynemeyer and Will say they have had trouble with online forms. They both have said that sometimes there is not an option for Feb. 29 when filling out their birthday and they have to quickly select a alternate date.
Another online oddity that others may not consider is Facebook. Each year individuals receive a swarm of happy birthday wishes on their Facebook timeline, but for people like Paynemeyer, if he wants to be recognized each year, he needs to enter a "fake birthday." He typically celebrates on Feb. 28 and so online friends wish him a happy birthday on that day.
Despite any confusion of the year, Paynemeyer said he enjoys being a leap year baby.
"Every four year, it feels super special, so that was always good for me," said Paynemeyer. "And it's always an interesting point of conversation."
Even though Will has an actual birthday this year, he and his family chose to celebrate on Feb. 27th because they felt it made more sense to get together on a weekend rather than a Monday. Paynemeyer also did not seem to have a concrete plan of how he would celebrate this year, but either way they're able to celebrate their day which comes only once in a blue moon, or every four years.
"Some people don't recognize it as a real birthday, sometimes people question if I'm lying to them or not," said Paynemeyer. "I've always kind of liked having a leap year birthday and never thought it stunk, I still got all my b-day present growing up."
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 275.