"It is not your birthday, Emily," I stated above her as I scraped her entire, uneaten lunch into the trash. The sentence was barely out of my mouth before she protested. "No, it IS my birthday!"
We had been going back and forth for days. Everyday was her birthday. Everyday, she asked about her party, when her cousins and papas were coming over, and when she'd get her presents and cake. When bedtime arrived and the day had closed without the spectacle of said cake, party, and presents, I believe she turned in her crib, hugged her stuffed puppy tight, and said, "Ok. So TOMORROW must be my birthday." In the morning, if she was asked how old she was, she'd confidently answer, "I three."
"No, you are not three. You are two."
"NO. I three!" Tears, instantly, on that beautiful, sweet little face. "It's my birthday. I not two anymore, I three." Where are my damn balloons?
This May baby- late May baby- has many more non-birthday days until she reaches the big 0-3. Long days filled with singing "Happy Birthday" tunelessly to herself on the cold kitchen floor, of wondering about the start of her imagined party, of waiting for gifts and cake that simply do not materialize. As I looked down at her sweet face staring up at mine, crinkled in denial of my proclamation, I wondered if I should go fetch the library book I had checked out for her the day before. It was called, "When Is My Birthday?" Spoiler alert. It's not today. But, no. Perhaps it was best to just move past the B word entirely.
She'd been to a couple birthday parties in the last month, most notably her older cousin's (big party) and younger cousin's (even bigger party). A couple of her classmates at preschool have also celebrated their birthdays. Surely, Emily has felt that she has waited patiently for her turn to feel special and to be on the receiving end of an infinite pile of slickly packaged presents and an entire cake addressed specifically with her name on it. "Today must definitely be the day," she likely thinks each morning as we swap out her ten pound wet diaper for a dry one with an air of optimism. But, of course, she is wrong.
What do you tell a three year old about patience and selflessness? Wait. I mean, what do you tell a two year old? Dammit, Emily, you've even got me partially fooled. Here's the problem, Emily, and it's a lesson of grace that most of us don't fully comprehend until we are much older, if ever. Other people will have parties or honors that you simply may not have, but the joy that you have in celebrating with them should not be tempered by the question of when you are going to get yours. Perhaps, when your birthday rolls around FINALLY in May, you might have a party, or you might not. There might be a mountain of presents, or there might not. I'll probably get you a cake. But hey. Maybe not. All birthdays are not created equal, as individual lives which may veer off down different roads aren't either. But regarding the cake- let's just see how Mommy's feeling.
Yikes. Perhaps that came out heavier than I intended.
I looked down at my daughter curled into a knot on the floor, singing Happy Birthday to herself and I put down the plate I'd just cleaned off. What triumphs await these kids of mine- what heartaches? It's too much to sift through, sometimes- the possibilities both full and hollow. What are we to do with these sweet little kids too tiny to understand the intricacies of magnanimity? Sometimes I just follow my heart. I scooped up my darling Emily, ignored the fact that she'd dismissed her healthy lunch with an insulting smirk, and found a Little Debbie cake for us in the pantry. I did not sing Happy Birthday as we ate it together. I did not say the B word. But yeah, Emily definitely received my slightly confusing message in between bites of chocolate. Happy Today, Emily. Happy Today. Now excuse me while I go find something to wrap.