I don’t like a lot of things other people love. I don’t like Christmas. I don’t like drinking. I don’t like loud, raucous parties or Game of Thrones (books, I haven’t seen the series) or M&Ms. I’m not interested in rock concerts, even for my favorite bands. Okay, maybe the Beatles, but only because it’d be a miracle since half of them are dead. I don’t care for fast food or Starbucks and I flat out HATED Hawaii.
And I’m not a fan of my birthday.
Hold on, you say. Join the club! Nobody likes their birthday after 21. Anyone saying otherwise is lying. And women aren’t even allowed to have birthdays after 29!
And, yeah, that’s all pretty true. But there’s still a weird pressure? expectation? implied societal contract? that I should at least enjoy my birthday. I should skip work, stuff myself with cake, buy myself presents, or do whatever it takes to fill that void.
What void? It’s the space that exists between everyone’s normal day and what makes it your special day. It’s the absense of change between yesterday you and one-year-older you.
As a kid, your birthday is a big deal. Or, well, it can be. Cake, presents, maybe a party. Maybe a party no one shows up for. Maybe not the presents you wanted or no presents at all. Maybe burnt cake or “the year Mom became a Vegan” cake. I can’t remember most of my birthdays as a child. I’ve seen a few pictures of the early ones. Regardless, I know what it’s supposed to feel like. I started remembering my birthdays because they stopped living up to that gut feeling.
That’s not to say I had an awful childhood or anything. Far from it. I had great birthdays, with slumber parties and pizzas and all manner of fun all the way through high school and then well into my 20s.
But you wake up the next day and think, so this is 16? 18? 25? 34? Doesn’t feel any different. I look back on some of my more recent parties and it looks like I was trying to capture that essence of BIG CHANGE that came with blowing out those candles.
I mean, it’s a lot harder to get that rush as an adult. Turning 10 is a big deal, but turning 34? I keep having to do the Math to remember my age. And that’s not an “I’m so old I can’t remember” thing. It’s a “this number has little to no significance in my day-to-day life” thing.
Plus, parties are so difficult now. It wasn’t so bad in our 20s, since most of our friends were also in their 20s and eager for weekend shenanigans. Now? Friends we’ve known for over a decade can’t find the time for lunch or miss our son’s birthday because their kids have competitions or games. Adults are busy. Adults with kids need sitters and 6 months notice just for brunch.
But listen, I could go on about how birthdays are always lacking. Even if all my Facebook friends and family post on my page, a sulky part of me will wonder why I didn’t get more calls or texts (which, yes, is super dumb and petty, but try explaining that to my Id). Or more birthday cards. My husband has an unparalleled record for amazing gifts, but somehow the fact that my family typically doesn’t go in for birthday gifts will still bother me. This is despite knowing that there are 5 adult kids in my family, plus 3 spouses, 1 girlfriend, and now 5 grandbabies, which is just a TON of people to keep track of let alone afford cards/gifts for. It’s actually kind of nice that there isn’t that pressure to get something for everyone for every occasion because when I do manage to get bday cards sent, I feel like a superstar and not like it’s some obligatory thing.
Anyway, I didn’t mean to go all negative about this so I hope you stuck with me through the moping. I wanted to approach this year a little differently to maybe alleviate that inexplicable post-bday let-down.
First, to address that lack of BIG CHANGE between 33 and 34. Let’s be honest, in the grand scheme of your life not a lot changes over a year. You, as a person, are pretty much set by the time 30 hits. But on the other hand, so much can change for you. This time last year, I had a newborn and I was clinging to sanity like Gandalf hanging off the bridge in Khazad-Dum. Did I let go to go fight the Balrog? No, because I stayed sane and didn’t have time for smoting my enemies and getting reborn with new threads. Now, I have a toddler who is mobile (understatement) and a daily/nightly challenge. Am I the same mother I was last year? HA, no. I am a little bit more confident even if I am still vastly intimidated by the tasks that lie ahead (17 more years of them, yikes).
And last year, I was still trying to integrate Mom into my personality. I recently saw a meme about how having kids doesn’t make the person you used to be disappear or some shite.
My friend (mother of 6) who posted it was pissed and at first I didn’t get why. It seemed like the normal inspirational drivel I usually scroll on by, but I’m new to the whole Mom game still and there was some context I wasn’t privy to. Anyway, the woman I was 2 years ago, before I was even pregnant, is kind of a stranger to me now. Weird, right? I mean, she’s still there, utterly confused by how difficult it is for me to get a pedicure on a whim. But I can’t seem to see her as me anymore? And I don’t want to go back to being her. I sometimes wish I could, on bad days or long nights. Just, not really. If I could get a full night’s sleep, crochet all day and still get my happy boy, that’s the deal I’d take. So yes, that person matters, but only because I couldn’t exist now without her. There’s no going back to her. No giving up Momming to indulge the illusion. Having a kid changes you because you must or they die.
Good grief, this is getting all over the place. This year qualifies as a BIG CHANGE year for me, but every year can do that if you just tally up all the little ways you have grown, whether emotional or psychological, or whatever. Every moment you are alive is BIG.
As for the gifts and cake and filling that void, well, I have a cupboard full of chocolate. My hubby got me the writing seminar with Neil Gaiman (SQUEE). My good friend is making me a super cool bag. My boy now plays by himself during the day so I can get crochet done again. And the universe has been plentiful with blessings.
Tim Curry narrates the audiobooks for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
2 of my good friends just had healthy babies, one on Buddy Boy’s birthday.
I am alive and in shape (round is a shape, I checked).
I have a decent, caring husband who does dishes and vacuums and folds laundry and plays with his son.
Our tax refund is enough to pay for a flight home this summer so our boy can meet all his cousins and aunties and uncles.
Captain Marvel was pretty great.
I could go on. And so could you. The world is filled with awful, more every day. Take time to remember the good if you can. It won’t fix anything, but it can make things bearable for a time.
Now go forth and enjoy my birthday!