*The above Birthday-cake photo credit goes to my friend Maria. I stole this picture off her Instagram, where it was captioned: “Today is my birthday. Another year older, guys. And yes I made my own cake.” Happy grown-up birthday, Maria. You’re a good Mom.
It was my birthday a few weeks ago. I really didn’t care much, of course, because I was turning 34 which didn’t feel particularly note-worthy, and because I just really don’t pay much attention to birthdays anyway. Besides, I was leaving for a lovely kid-free holiday a few days later, so I knew I would have more than enough special me-time very soon. Besides, I’m not exactly new to parenting, so I know that a parent’s birthday is never actually about the parent. It turned out that this birthday was exceptionally not about me. Here’s some things that really happened on my most recent birthday.
1) It was a very windy morning. So windy, in fact, that the power went out at our house. We checked the school website for cancellations, but there was no news, so we had our usual busy Thursday morning, when the older kids have to get ready for school, and Mommy has to go to work and get the little ones to childcare, only with no blow dryer or hot food. And then, after we were all ready and about to climb into the van, I got a text. School was cancelled because the power just went out there, too. So. Now I have all the kids with me, and I’m supposed to go to work. Cue the babysitting scramble, the asking friends for favours, and the getting to work two hours late. Sigh….
2) My husband gave me a birthday present! This was because I reminded him a few days earlier that the kids would be disappointed if he didn’t, and because I told him what to get me. But you know, I’m happy with it. He took all the kids with him to pick it out, and it’s lovely.
3) Whenever I ran into someone who said “Happy Birthday” to me, it caught me off guard because I’d forgotten about it again.
4) Facebook is always awesome on your birthday because it’s fun to get birthday greetings from all your friends and non-friend “friends” even if a shocking number of people literally write “happy birthday” and nothing else. My very favourite entry this year was from someone in the non-friend category, from a woman I’d met once and haven’t gotten around to unfriending. She wrote, and I quote: “Happy Birthday Michelle!” How touching.
5) The power was STILL OUT at dinner time, so my Mom invited us over to her powerless house for pizza delivery and rapidly thawing ice-cream. My good friend and her family were there too, so there were a lot of small children and a lot of bowls of ice cream. We were right in the middle of the candle-lighting process when my cell phone rang. While I talked, my mom and my friend kept handing out bowls of ice-cream, each of which had a lit candle in it. I was still on the phone when suddenly I heard them start to sing Happy Birthday. Apparently the ice cream/fire/small children combo situation was deteriorating, and they decided that they couldn’t wait for me to finish my phone call. So, yeah. You know your birthday is not really about you when no one waits for you to get there before singing the birthday song.
The truth is, though, that it was one of the best birthdays I’ve had since becoming a parent. The thing about being 34 is that you no longer expect the whole world to care about you, and you stop hoping that your “special day” will be special at all. My first few birthdays as a mom were so much harder because I was adjusting to the fact that my kids need me to have a special day, but then need me to do all the work to make it special. This year, when the power went out and school got cancelled, which was a frustrating and frantic situation for all the families involved, I was lucky enough that it was on a day where people were more inclined to do me favours! I did eventually make it to work, and then I had a special dinner and I blew out a candle, and I didn’t have to prepare any of those things myself!
So, happy birthday to me, and to Michelle, whoever you are.