Thursday, July 22, 2010

Letting Up on Birthday Letdowns.

As I think back over my birthdays for the last couple of decades, it seems that most of them were letdowns in some way. It may have been pouring rain (in spite of a midsummer birthday...what's with that?!) It may have been that something I'd hoped to receive was not among my gifts, or that special plans didn't go as anticipated. At my first ever with-friends birthday part (when I was 5) I vividly recall being sent to time out in the middle of my own party. I have no recollection of why I was sent, but I do know it ruined the day. The year I turned 16 I desperately hoped for a date on my birthday (since it was a Friday after all)...I didn't get my first date for another year and a half. During my last pregnancy I threw my back out twice, each time causing me to spend most of a day in bed feeling miserable--and one of them was on my birthday. My husband tells me that one year (between his divorce and our engagement) nobody remembered his birthday--including himself--until he was getting ready for bed. His day had been fine by other standards, but it had not been special in any way.

I've realized that we have enormous--and probably ridiculous--expectations about birthdays. It's probably started in childhood--cakes, parties, special dinners. We build up ideas about birthdays being different from other days. But the truth is that a birthday is a day, like any other day. We cannot control the weather, the road conditions, the local bacteria or viruses, our employment status, or even whether anyone else notices what day it is. Bad stuff happens sometimes, we just seem to notice it extra on our birthdays because somehow we have developed the idea that birthdays are supposed to be perfect. (Actually, we do it with a lot of days--I can think of a number of Christmases that let me down too.)

After last year's extraordinarily awful birthday, I concluded that I was going to treat birthdays like any other day. Sure, we'll make a cake, and have some presents...but I'm not going to try to build it up into some super special day. This year has had lots of potential for being another letdown birthday: we're unemployed, it's raining, and the baby kept me up half the night... but you know what? I feel fine. A little sleep-deprived, but generally fine. I didn't build it up, so it can't let me down.
I hope that I can help my children understand this while they are still young, so that they don't have to go through years of letdowns before they figure it out. I'm not swearing off birthdays or celebrations by any means, but I'm swearing off trying to make them too much different from other days. A birthday is a day wherein we celebrate, but it's not a 'special day' per se. There is no grand cosmic scheme in place to ensure that everything goes perfectly just because it's someone's birthday. Every day is someone's birthday, after all, and bad stuff has to happen sometime, right? So I'm learning to be zen about it. ☺

6 comments:

Mallory said...

Is today your birthday? It's my older sister's birthday!

I know what you mean about trying not to make it seem like birthdays need to be "special". I usually end up reminding people every day for a week leading up to my birthday, that my birthday is coming! lol. That usually means I'm let down by the people closest to me (because they had time to prepare...why didn't they take better advantage of it) and pleasantly surprised by people who really didn't need to take notice (because...they remembered! lol)

I'll get over myself someday! :D

Mommy Bee said...

yes it's my birthday today. ☺

Suzanne W. said...

Happy birthday Jenni! (((HUGS)))

Brandi M said...

Happy Birthday a day late!

I agree- there have been far too many let-downs on "special days". I like your idea of letting it be just another day with a little special cake or presents.

erinrose said...

Hmmm, not sure about this. I have 2 children who brush off their birthdays. I feel it is because they were disappointed by their birthdays as children. I like to take the attitude that the specialness of the birthday is in the remembrances and in giving honor to the birthday boy or girl. Also doing things for others as a celebration of your own life is a lovely way of making the day fabulous instead of waiting for others to honor you. True, backs can go out, babies can be sick and keep you up all night, but I believe your special day is a SPECIAL day. Happy birthday Jenni, I'm glad you were born and I know your family is too.

Jessica said...

There may not be a "grand cosmic scheme," but I feel like birthdays can be special to us, regardless of anyone else taking notice of the day. I don't really expect anyone to make a big deal out of my birthday, but I appreciate it when they do, or at least acknowledge it. I also think of my birthday as a time to reflect and think about everything I've accomplished and the ways that I've grown personally in the past year.
Sometimes it is a good time to recognize the good things that have happened to make you feel special, too. Especially since things rarely line up perfectly on your birthday.
The day of your birth is special, regardless of who else remembers it or what happens, because you were born.
I'm certainly glad you were born!

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