Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bittersweet Birthdays

Many birthdays ago, I overheard my Mom explaining my poutiness at my 8th birthday party to the parent of one of my guests, "Oh, Christi always gets gloomy at birthday parties." As though she were expecting such a thing, and still went through all of the efforts and headaches involved in planning an ice cream birthday party for her oldest daughter. Needless to say, I increased the pout factor even more when I heard that.  A photo album holds a picture of a line of girls, holding up their ice cream sundaes to the camera, all smiles except for one spoiled, sullen birthday girl.  And whether the observation was true (yep) or became a self fulfilled prophesy (unlikely), I still find myself getting a little poopy around birthdays.

My children are approaching their 4th birthday.  Just in time too, because E is sooo over being three.  And while she is desperate to be four, dissolving into dramatic tears each morning, evening, and every half-hour in between  when she asks, "Mom, are we four yet?", I am desperately trying to figure out how to stop time. If they are getting older, then I'm getting older.  And really, aren't my children's, extended family's, and friend's birthdays all about me anyway?  Okaaaay, I'm trying.  Really trying, to put aside my slightly narcissistic view and share in my children's excitement about kissing their toddler years goodbye.  It's ridiculous, I know.  I should be drawing giant X's on the calendar days, counting down the hours until the big day.  Birthdays are fun! And the getting older part isn't so bad.  My children can feed and dress themselves.  They help out with chores.  They buckle their own seat-belts.   They back the car out of the garage (I kid, I kid).  And if this last month of year three is a preview of the year to come, it's starting out to be just adorable.  I'm reminded of why the four year-old class was my favorite to work in during my high school and college years working in daycares.  But, while I appreciate all of their cuteness and independence, I've been in a true funk about this approaching birthday.  I do NOT want my children to be any older!  I didn't when they were two months old, I didn't when they were two years old, and I sure as heck don't now.   Life is good.  Let's not mess with it by changing and growing.

So, I do what I do when I'm in a funk.  I cry.  I pout.  I sit in front of a mirror and over-pluck my eyebrows.  And eventually, I pray.  (Oh, if only I could someday have the brains to reverse the order, my brows would be so lush)  And then, I read this...

And I cried again.  But this time, I cried because of the warmth washing over me as I read the clear response to my prayers.  I read it again tonight, and it touched me, but days ago when I read it as the answer  "A mother fills, only to empty, and empty, and empty, which fills her full again, and isn’t this giving away the way to have it all?"  just after quietly praying out my questions to God, it rocked me.

Birthdays are a time to celebrate this glorious gift of life.  Not a checklist of goodbyes or expectations to meet.  Not a right way to feel, but a right way to live.  When Elijah died this summer, I came face to face with the deepest grief I hope never to share as I tightly hugged his moms at the funeral.  Just imagining their pain made it hard for me to breathe at night.  As she greeted his former therapy team, Pam managed to sternly advise, "Always have big birthday parties for your children. Every year [all three of them] I tried to get out of it. I didn't want to go through the hassle of throwing a big party, and now I'm so happy that we did."  This year, I had a big party for my big almost-four year-olds.  Bigger than I'd planned because it was shared with their one year-old cousin.  Big party or small, I celebrate their growth as I did their birth, pouring all of my love into them, as my heart stretches bigger, filling back up with more love than it started with.

"A crop is made by all the seasons and the only way to have it all — is not at the same time… but letting one season bring its yield into the next."

1 comment:

  1. Wow, it's a huge party celebration. It looks like a fabulous birthday party. My kids love your idea of execution.
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