I wrote this in November. If you know me, you know I have a tendency to over-think things. If you are new to this blog, you’re about to find that out. I wasn’t ready to post it until now. But here it is.
My baby is turning 6-years-old, hardly a baby, not a toddler, definitely a girl. And I feel a lot of feelings about this, spanning from joy to panic. Every mother feels them (at least that’s what I tell myself) as every year passes. As she slips further from the time when my life is the life most intertwined with hers. She grows more independent, but I feel a bit left behind. She sees herself differently, she sees me differently, and I can’t move on from the moment I first held her.
My daughter, being 6, felt ready to have a birthday party. She is in the peak of what it is to enjoy a birthday. The joy of being special for a day and eating cake and having seconds on cake. She’s proud to get older, to know more, to reach higher shelves, to have a longer leash. She wants to share this joy with her friends at a party. What could be more natural.
I want my child to be happy. I love my child. But I am not her, we differ in so many ways. A mother’s wants and desires and emotions and reactions don’t morph into those of her child after it’s born. We subjugate our needs, our needs are subjugated against our will, but after it all we’re still in there. The woman we were for all those moments before we became a mother exists in all the moments after.
She has always, since she could speak, expressed the desire for a birthday party. She’s a very articulate, compulsively social, incredibly vibrant child. And she loves cake more than you love your own life. But I resisted the word party (because I’m very FUN!). On previous birthdays I made the cake, invited over a friend, sang to her in my rather unspectacular voice. And because she’s also a gracious child, she accepted this as enough on all her other birthdays.
Maybe I fight the urge to do everything my children want more than I should. Maybe I resent the implication, insinuation or outright declaration that what I want doesn’t matter anymore. Doesn’t matter as much. Doesn’t matter to anyone but me. Maybe my own anxiety about parties and houseguests and large groups of children was the excuse I gave. The aversion to ‘the birthday party’ was the name I gave to my silent protest against the cultural idea that losing myself was part of motherhood. But also I’m not super into large groups of children.
She never explicitly asked for a birthday party this year. Maybe by the wise age of 6 she’d accepted non-biological aunties and her own sister as the only party guests she could expect. But I planned one anyway, inspired by the joy she showed at the parties of others, warmed by the truth that she loves the party even when it isn’t for her, guilted by the thought that I was the only thing standing between her and that kind of memory for herself. Plus I, too, enjoy cake. And seconds on cake.
Sometimes a party is just a party. Sometimes even a silent protest can be quieted for a day. Sometimes you have to admit that while you might be right on the point of the war, this battle isn’t where it will be won. I am still me, I am not them, they are not me. But god damn these kids love balloons. And cake. Did I mention cake?
I rejected any inkling I might have to fall trap to the Pinterest party-planning-abyss where I’ve seen so many before me perish. I joked that the theme of the party was ‘1980’s Birthday.’ In the 80’s every birthday party had one theme, which was ‘Birthday.’ There were balloons, maybe streamers, cake, conical hats, possibly a pinata depending on bravery level of the parents involved. Now it’s like ‘Snow Castle in Space’ or ‘Undersea Cowboy Adventure’ and people lose hours of their lives and large portions of their salary to these events. I may have blossomed into a person who can host a child’s birthday party, but that kind of planning is a bridge too far.
Her friends came. And shared their love for my girl. And she shared her bliss with them. And after one round of pin the tail on the whatever and a candle in a cupcake they just ran around. Screaming, laughing, being children who don’t yet have to worry about how many of their own neuroses they are passing on to someone else. Being children who think growing older is the best thing that can happen. Being children who never worry if houseguests notice the dust on the stairs or the slightly overcooked treats.
I’m still me. But they are making me better. Happy birthday my sweet pea.