Thoughts on (Happy) Birthdays

Isn’t it strange how the perception of one’s birthday changes over the years?

Look at my little one: He has been waiting for his birthday ever since his older brother had his (three months). He has been planning his perfect day with a perfect cake (rainbow cake!) and presents and pizza and a party (a few days later). When the day came, he seemed to absorb all of it with an intensity only children have. He loved every minute of it. Loved his cake and his presents and bringing muffins to school to share with his class mates. He loved the attention he got at school. He would shout “It’s my birthday!” across the street to a neighbour. He prepared the party bags with care (thinking a lot about which coloured pencil to put into which bag, according to the colour preferences of his friends) and even made some for friends he could not invite (lack of space). His birthday was really the day. And he is so proud of being one year older now.

Now look at me: My birthday is shortly after his, and in a way I had been looking forward to it too. Not to officially being one year older (although it really is only one day…at a time), but to having a “special day”. Or a day to feel special. At the same time I felt a bit like this was a childish emotion. My mother said a few years ago that “birthdays do not matter so much any more as you get older” – that being meant as a sort of consolation for a birthday that was sucked up by dirty diapers and toddler’s needs. It did not make me fell any better though. Officially I agreed with her, laughing away any birthday ambitions, but secretly I thought: “But why can’t I have a special day anymore? Just because I am a mum myself now?”

Time has passed and now my kids are old enough to not only love their own birthdays but to want to make it a special day for me too. So little one made me a book with drawings and a story he wrote for me. And older one asked me what I would like to have as a present. Husband got me a cake and they all helped me eating it. They gave me a “morning off” so I could take my bike, ride to the beach and have a solitary walk there.

It was windy, almost stormy, but sunny. A friend of mine once said the North Sea was actually no proper sea since it was not blue but grey and muddy. On my birthday morning however it was looking rather  pretty – if not dazzling blue, it was at least blueish streaked with grey, with dramatic waves with foamy crests. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the wind blew whisks of sand over the beach. I put the hood of my coat over my head (I foolishly had left my cosy hat at home, forgetting the rule that the wind always blows twice as hard at the beach as in our street), and for a while I just stood there and looked at the waves in front of me and at the thoughts in my head. I think I subconsciously sorted out life, universe and everything there on the beach, leaving me quite content and calm.

The rest of the day was partly birthday-ish and partly “normal”. Special things kept coming up. Ordering fancy food for dinner. Husband taking care of the bedtime rituals and the dishes.

In the evening both my sons asked me if I had a happy birthday. They really wanted to know, wanted to make sure I enjoyed “my” day as much as they had theirs.

And I did. I truly did.

Thank you family, for making me feel special.

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Resolutions Part III: The thing about family and friends

I am almost at the end of my resolutions list: Spending more time with family and friends. How is this one coming along so far?

Well, the family (apart from husband and the boys, who I am luckily seeing on a daily basis 😉 ) is not exactly living around the corner, so quick drop-ins for coffee are out of the question. One side of the family is a 4 hours drive away – not too far for the occasional weekend trip, but still not a distance you are keen to cover on a really frequent basis with two kids in the back of the car (plus the driving does take a lot of time out of the normal 2-day-weekend). We have been there in December and are not sure yet when the next trip is going to be. But we will go to see my mum end of this month – flying down for a week during our “Spring Break” (ha! funny word – although it has not been really winter yet, I do not yet believe spring is waiting around the corner). We are all looking forward to that.

What about seeing friends? Some friends I see almost daily on the school yard at pick-up time. It is nice for a quick chat, but it is not the same as sitting down for a coffee somewhere and actually spending some real time together. Which I have a not done very often recently. Not at all this year so far, to be honest.

The problem is, meeting for coffee in the morning takes interferes with resolution number 2, getting more writing done. So I am kind of stuck. But there are a few people I definitely want to meet for an elaborate chat (without kids) really soon.

What I would also love to do is spend a weekend with an old friend who is living about 3 hours driving from here. We have done it before and it was lovely. She does not have any kids (yet), so it was a weekend going back in time for me. Just being responsible for my own needs, not having to check if anyone is about to get hungry (= grumpy and starting fights with his brother) or tired (= same outcome). Doing stuff like going shopping, stopping for a quick bite in a cafe, go home to dump the loot, decide on a movie, go out again, come home late, chat endlessly during the whole process (except during the movie). After a weekend like this my friend and I are completely up to date with each others’ life again, have sorted out the problems of the world as well as our private ones and filled each other in on other people we both (used to) know. My (and probably her) ears are then ringing a bit and I feel a bit high from all that new input, but I am always driving home very happy. And happy to be with my family again – because funnily, it also makes me realise how much I like my normal life too.

So we need to find a free weekend for that again – which is not easy since she is really really busy and my weekends tend to fill themselves with lots of activities (that very often are a bit too much for a home-alone-daddy to handle… like two different birthday party invitations for the boys…). But we have managed before and we will again. In spring. Spring is our visiting season.

Another good moment to get all social and having a party would be my birthday, which is actually approaching rapidly. The last years I never had a party. Not a conscious decision, it just did not happen. For this year I was rather determined to do something – going out with a couple of friends (since I am not so keen on doing all the work required to have a party in our house… on my own birthday). But our primary babysitter did not have time, and the back-up babysitter did not answer my emails. And while I was waiting if she would answer, and while I was wondering where I put her mobile number, I suddenly realised I was not so keen of having any kind of birthday activity after all.

You see, the last weeks and weekends have been incredibly busy and I am starting to feel I am in this reactive mode again – responding to queries, doing things that are expected from me, without stopping to think what I wanted myself.

So I stopped and I thought. Here is the result: I will not have a party. I will not even go out. On my birthday, I want some time for myself, maybe a nice cake (from the shops… I won’t put husband through any cake baking ordeal, and the boys are still too small for it), maybe order some special dinner, getting someone else to clean the dishes. 😉 Take it slow. Have a nice evening with husband (when the boys are in bed). Breathe. Just be.

(Maybe that’s a sign I am getting old…. Oh well. I am probably. 😉 )

 

Looking at those resolutions: Part II

After having looked critically at the health-related items on my resolutions list last week, today is the day to examine the outcome of “try  to spend more time doing things you really like”. (And I won’t mention the fact that I had a bit of a relapse sweets-wise… partly due to younger son’s birthday…. I am talking cake and icing and jelly beans…)

Doing things I really like – so that would be writing. So, how has my writing coming along in January (plus a bit of February)?

Well. Yes. Better than in December. But not as much as I wanted it to.

Why is it that even though I really try to schedule time for writing, dedicate whole mornings to it, other things still manage to sneak and wriggle their way in? Volunteer work at school, chores at home, doctor’s appointments – they come slithering into my life one here and one there, clogging up my free time, and before I realise my week is full of the stuff.

It is your own choice, I hear you say. Just say “no” to the volunteer work, leave the mess in the house a mess, and stop complaining about things like dentist’s appointments – they are only once every 6 months anyway. (And if you stay fit and healthy you won’t need a doc in between. Ha ha.) If writing is that important to you, then stick to it.

Yes. I know. True. But.

But doing stuff at school is fun too, and I enjoy being around the kids (my own and their class mates). And I like it when the house is a bit less messy. And things like laundry and grocery shopping need to be done.

O.k. But then it is your choice, isn’t it? Your conscious choice?

Then don’t complain. And use the free time you have left in between wisely.

All right. I won’t. I will. Promise.

(P.S. I really had no big plans for this morning, only writing. Had it big in my calendar. But. But then I realised that if I put in another one or two hours I can finish the big reorganising of our living room before the boys come home. So I moved stuff around. Threw out LOTS of things – that’s why I needed to do it alone – found new places for the things that are left… Now it really looks good. And I am happy. Because this has been on my to-do-list for some time. And today was just the day for it. … My choice. – At least I got this post done afterwards. And now I will have some lunch. 😉 )