It’s my birthday today. Guess what my kids got for me? Go ahead… guess! I bet you weren’t thinking three cases of a raging head cold and a hacking cough! It’s the gift that keeps on giving since just when I think the illness has run through every person under eight in our house, someone else will pick up a slightly different variation of it and start the whole cycle all over again. It’s super snotty around here. Awesome, right? I know! Happy birthday to ME!
Weekend before last, when we were celebrating Millie’s birthday, Charlie was doing that totally annoying thing that kids do where they get jealous of attention being shown to others so they try their best to shift all eyes back to themselves. In Charlie’s case, this involved knocking toys off a shelf causing a loud crash right in the middle of us singing a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” (His motives may have been selfish but his timing was impeccable!)
That behavior sucks, so part of the disciplinary fallout from Charlie’s actions involved a timeout in his room. As he was sitting remorsefully on his bed, crying in an attempt to extrude maximum pity, I firmly explained to him all about birthdays and how we celebrate different people at different times in this family.
“Sometimes, we celebrate Daddy. Sometimes, we celebrate Millie. Sometimes, we celebrate Henry and sometimes, we celebrate you.”
And, in a moment of complete self-indulgence, I hollered, “AND, YOU KNOW WHAT? NO ONE EVER CELEBRATES MOMMY!”
Now, as amazing as it felt to give voice to the under-appreciated mom in this house, my declaration may have been a tad self-serving. Was this pronouncement delivered at a volume that I was sure my husband would hear? Yes. Was I navel-gazing a bit too much and feeling extra sorry for myself? Absolutely. Should I maybe think about all those less fortunate people out there that don’t even HAVE birthdays? Probably.
But, you know what? When you are the orchestrator of all celebrations, the baker of all cakes, the wrapper of all presents, the writer of all sentiments, who picks up the torch when it’s your big day?
For many many years, Bob and I had an actual spoken agreement to not purchase birthday presents for one another. We came to this understanding after many, many years of being disappointed by our abysmal ability to pick anything the other person would find remotely decent as a gift.
Bob would inevitably buy me something that was easy and comfortable for him to shop for. It would usually be running shoes or work-out gear since that’s what he knows. I, in turn, would buy him something for the house, which is what I love to shop for, packaged up as something he would enjoy, too. I think we acquired quite a few of our framed pictures this way. And, maybe a throw pillow and blanket or two.
So, in lieu of presenting each other with gifts, we had a lot of freedom to buy what we wanted to buy throughout the year. If he wanted a fancy bike accessory or I wanted to buy a new set of dishes, we just did. Cumulatively, it amounted to lots of treats. Just treats we selected ourselves exactly when we wanted them. No waiting for necessarily important days!
But, somehow, this effort at not gifting anything turned into not celebrating at all. With each passing year, the effort level dropped dramatically. What began as a way to avoid grave disappointment, in the end, was creating even more.
Which, culminated in last year’s epic birthday fail wherein Bob helped ring in my big day by plopping down on the sofa while I was drinking coffee, looking at me accusatorially and saying, “So. You’re 37.” Like I had just caught a disease. No card. No well wishes. No cake. No nothing.
I think we officially abandoned the No Present Rule a short time later.
This past weekend, Bob made amends for last year’s catastrophe by baking me a cake. So, there was cake (my favorite kind), cards (one from him AND one from the kids/EXTRA POINTS), a small window of time where I was in no way responsible for a small being (doesn’t happen often) and a super thoughtful gift card to Pottery Barn (evidence that Lessons Were Learned during our gift-free experiment). I think it’s safe to assume he heard the rant I delivered to Charlie.
We’re not always going to get it right. (And, I’m talking about Bob here. Not me. Just to clarify.) But, I’m pretty sure everyone likes to be celebrated. Even if just in some small way. And now, the pressure is on since we’re just two short months away from Christmas!