Birthday or Bust

My birthday and I have a very checkered history.

On the plus side, it usually fell during summer vacation—a time when every girl did dishes every day in my house, unless it was her birthday. On the down side, I never got to celebrate my birthday in the classroom. (Not once. Ever. Not that I’m bitter.)

Some birthdays were nice. I have vague memories of one party in upper grade school, a knit Strawberry Shortcake that my kids now love, and a beautiful soft doll with pink hair whom I named August Marie. My twenty-first was low-key, no alcohol in sight, a day I retreated to the quiet of the farm and spent the day with my parents, a welcome respite after a bad breakup.

But the most vivid memories are the bad ones. Crystal-clear in my memory is an extremely hot birthday…meltingly, blisteringly, fire-and-brimstone kind of hot…in which absolutely nothing special happened all day. Midafternoon, I came out into the kitchen and Mom shooed me outside to pick grapes, so I wouldn’t see my birthday cake before supper. Good intentions, but what could be worse than spending your birthday banished in the heat, with sweat running down your body? It was absolutely miserable, and I’m sure my poor mother was devastated when I dissolved into inconsolable tears.

So I have a love-hate relationship with my birthday. You might think I’m headed in the direction of biological clock and aging, but I’m not. I think it’s ridiculous to fear age and death—and absolutely ludicrous that it’s considered bad taste to ask a woman how old she is. I’m thirty-five. THIRTY-FIVE. I’m older than Jesus was when he died.;)

I find the whole “over the hill” thing, and the black balloons on the 50th birthday, to be idiotic. Offensive, even. Since when did age and wisdom become an object of scorn? Since when did looking like you’re seventeen become the standard by which all are judged? Come on, people. Seventeen was a wretched age—naïve, insecure, angry at the world, and a hormonal wreck. You don’t seriously want to be frozen at seventeen? It gives me the willies, just thinking about it!

No, it’s not about age. It’s just that I always think a birthday should be a special day, and usually it’s not. Often, in fact, it’s a downright bad day, mostly because I’ve ramped up my expectations too high. Christian says it’s the one day of the year that is all about you. The trouble is, when you have kids, it’s NEVER about you—life is always and forever about Them. Especially when They are your full-time job.

It’s as if they knew I wanted to take a day and just relax. Now, we can’t have that! So instead, my birthday was a Battle Day, and a Disobey Day, and a Lose Your Books Day, and a Refuse To Nap Day—for both boys, no less! It’s hard to enjoy scrapbooking pictures of an adorable child when the real thing is lying on the floor whining because you’re not holding him.

And because my birthday falls at the start of the school year, we always teach lessons, and there are a million schedule conflicts. So the one thing I wanted, which was a picnic with Christian, had to be postponed because of a work meeting. He tried—he really did, and it’s more than I felt like I did for him three weeks ago—but this year just wasn’t a good one.

I always try to act like my birthday is no big deal…which is probably why always, at the end of it, I feel let down. Sometimes I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses have it right, in not celebrating birthdays at all.

I know–it’s a bad attitude. Just let me vent, and maybe by next year I can turn it around.