A not-so-big birthday to-do
Birthdays once meant sleepovers, sweets and shopping. Now? I’d be thrilled with sleep.
Monday was my big 3-1. Turning 30 caught me by surprise, really, given I was a shell of a human being with an up-allnight newborn. My thirtieth fell on a Saturday, the most coveted day for birthdays, but we kept it low-key last year. If I remember correctly, I was passed out by 8 p.m. And that’s with evening coffee.
A birthday falling on a Monday is the least birthday-ish thing there is. But my family always gets together for cake and presents — what some would deem a “to-do.” That’s been easy with three birthdays within five days of each other: my sister’s, Dad’s and mine. July was a blow-out — especially as Katie and I got older. Having summer occasions meant friends had to be tracked down before trips and camps rendered them MIA until the new school year. Mom really went all out.
Though I still love birthdays (yours, mine, everyone’s), they’re quieter occasions these days. Most of us don’t need to be reminded of our age, for one; I’ve passed the point where I can discreetly remove the white hairs that have cropped up along my hairline. Much more tweezing and I’ll have to pass off my bald patch as a fashion statement.
Hair dye needs aside, I’m just not as quick as I used to be. Getting off the floor with my 1-yearold often requires an arm up, a sturdy piece of furniture or both. While trying to out-run my Fitbit friends (didn’t happen), I landed hard on one knee and hobbled for days. I don’t rebound as quickly. Some of my freckles are starting to look weird, and conversations with buddies often involve health insurance and retirement. I have little understanding of what Pokémon Go is.
But I’m learning to be OK with that.
I’m trying to get healthier. To let go of little slights. To embrace my growing awareness that I’m not hip — and I don’t need to be. I mean, I’m not joining Snapchat. It’s better that way.
So far, my thirties have helped me accept that I am just one person. One highly-caffeinated, anxious, doing-the-best-she-can woman. Becoming a parent has certainly contributed to that. And my thirtieth year? All about cutting myself some slack.
I was pretty successful, actually. Some of it was more necessity, less self-control: to maintain my sanity, I’ve had to ignore some tasks. The floor won’t always be vacuumed. Unanswered emails may linger a little too long. Clean towels now live in the dryer until we’re forced to fold them — and only because we have more to jam in there.
But we’re doing the best we can.
When we collapsed after the long drive home from New York last week, Spencer noticed Oliver felt a little warm. We initially ignored that, hoping it was nothing, but soon broke out our trusty baby thermometer.
His temperature was high, of course. A virus.
For the next five days, Spencer and I took turns snuggling our poor toddler — barely leaving the house or looking up in the process. Though he has been sick many times, unfortunately, he hadn’t been sick like this. His fever wavered between warm-tap-water and crossing-hot-coals. We took him to the doctor and bonded with the weekend on-call physician through our worried phone calls. Spence and I stared at each other quite a bit, unsure what to do for our uncomfortable child. It’s an awful feeling.
Though I had already been planning to work Monday, it quickly became apparent that my 31st birthday wouldn’t be one for the ages. It was spent with my sick child — the sick baby who’d already gotten sick on me.
Birthdays in adulthood can’t hold a candle to childhood, of course, and I don’t expect them to. It would be nice for a birthday to not involve urgent care, however. On Monday, I was content to take in my son’s curiosity as he listened to the family sing “Happy Birthday To You” in our enthusiastic, off-key voices. His innocence scrubs an old-hat moment clean, giving it sparkle once more.
But being a parent often means a tiny person leans in to snuff out our candles. Gifts are ripped open on our behalf. And, of course, there’s no uninterrupted skimming of Facebook wishes; a sticky hand is always poised to pry away our phone.
These are silly things, of course. Inconsequential things. Even with the spotlight shifting to our littlest loved ones, who would deny them the simple pleasure of claiming the sugar flowers from our cake?
Well — me, actually. Keep those cute paws off my dessert.
Oliver can have the wish (he was my wish, after all), but frosting is not meant to be shared.