About five years ago, I decided to start making a big deal out of my birthday. Early on, I wished that there was a Chuck E. Cheese's for adults, but then again — a whole bunch of people yelling/playing games/getting lost in enclosed equipment that hasn't been cleaned since...? — I reconsidered my position on that one.
My birthday is this Saturday, April 28th, and I've been sick for over a week. Not up to doing the planning myself, I decided to ask the crew what I should do to celebrate ME.
Here's the suggestions I received:
Imani: "Mommy, I would get a double chocolate cake and eat it all by myself in a hotel someplace quiet."
Only a tween daughter would have that idea. She knows me so well.
"Honey, I think double chocolate would be a little bit much, but you are definitely on the right track."
Kiserian: "Mommy, I would play video games and stay up all night watching TV."
My 6-year-old son and his electronic devices... Doesn't he know that this is MY birthday that I'm planning here?
"Video games and TV aren't that fun for me, but thanks for your input."
My two other children were thinking pretty deeply. I waited to see who would chime in next.
Kamari: "Well, Mommy. You've been to New York and you said you liked it there, but you want to do something different this year, but you haven't had time to plan a big getaway. I think you should go to D.C."
My oldest son had really thought hard about this, so I didn't want to tell him that the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C. on the weekend isn't a break for me, even though there are a lot of places that I haven't been to yet in that area.
"Thanks honey. I'll think about that."
And then I turned to my 4-year-old. "Well, Niara, what do you think I should do?"
"Hmmm...I think you should go to the beach. You always close your eyes in a messy room and say 'I'm at the beach.' So, go to the beach."
Now, this is why everyone needs to have a daughter. I believe that daughters have this keen sense of seeing themselves like you, and they listen. Even when you don't think they are listening.
"Wow, Niara. That's a great idea."
As I anxiously ran to my laptop and began making arrangements, I had the startling realization that happens to every parent at some point in time — who is going to fund this expedition?
See, the seasons have changed and everyone has grown. (I have requested that their growth get on a more consistent, slower schedule. But no one has accepted my request.) I have been looking for boy jackets for weeks. My oldest daughter doesn't have a single pair of nice spring shoes for church. The baby was given some clothes by a neighbor — all of which are winter clothes for next year.
So, do I have to choose between my birthday break and the needs of the family?
Just as I was thinking about this, the phone rang.
"Shawn, what are you going to do for your birthday?"
Wow, is my mom psychic? I had been planning to call her and ask her to meet me at a beach somewhere on the East Coast, if I could work it out financially.
"I don't know Mom. You know it gets tight with the kids needing sporting equipment, clothes, and stuff. I might as well give up on having a birthday celebration."
"Try Cape Cod or somewhere in Connecticut. That would be nice for the weekend. Call around and let me know."
"I got this, Shawn. Just call me back."
In less than an hour, I had called around and found a cool place on the East Coast for us to hang out, with the expenses taken care of by my mother.
I've had many challenges with my mom over the years, but every year, especially around my birthday and Mother's Day, I appreciate her so much more. She understands my life. And she's there to help when I need her.
I look forward to the day that I can say to my daughters, "I got this."