I always cry on my kids’ birthdays. At least a couple times and usually for several (very) different reasons. I’m an emotional person on a regular day. I FEEL a lot. And when it’s too much, tears leak out of my eyes. They just do. I have been known, on many occasions, to blurt out, while tears are streaming down my face “I DON’T KNOW WHY I’M CRYING!!”. It’s taken me awhile, ok, most of my life, but I’ve come to realize it is mostly a good thing. I can’t imagine not being so emotional. Sometimes it sucks, sure, but sometimes it is awesome. I still get that fluttery, bubbly feeling in my belly before exciting things. I feel great joy on a regular basis. Sadness, too, yes, and sometimes thats worse as an adult. Syria right now. The recent school shooting. Those leave me feeling gutted. But I also rode down a giant inflatable slide with my kids today and let me tell you, that was pure joy, a genuine belly laugh, a smile that made my cheeks hurt. So I’ll go ahead and embrace my extra feeling as a good thing. But back to the point…
My kids’ birthdays, especially my oldest’s, are very emotional for me. I think the one, obvious aspect is that it is evidence of the passing of time. They are OLDER. And with that comes an inevitable truth…they need me a little less. Which is both good and bad. And so, not only am I sad that they need me less, but I’m also happy that they need me less. Motherhood is nothing if not confusing. But yeah, the smack in the face that they are actually GETTING OLDER brings on the first set of tears.
Then there is the unavoidable moment during the day when I have The Flashback to the day my babies were born. Oh my God, I thought parents were so weird when they’d talk about that. They’d get this stupid look on their face and their voice would get all mushy and they’d go on and on about how cute and little (yeah yeah, they’re all cute and little) and then they’d list ALL the stats (who cares about how dilated your freaking who-ha was?!)…weirdos I tell you, living in the past. But then I became a mom and I totally do it. All of it. I can picture with absolute clarity what they each looked like the first second I saw them. I can close my eyes and perfectly smell their new baby smell. I can feel their teeny tiny hands around my finger. I can see my first born and his scrunched up, red face and his furrowed brow and his deep, dark blue eyes (he was born looking like an old man, he’s an old soul) and I can remember how relieved and scared and happy and hopeful and worried I felt. I’m crying now, in case you’re an idiot and hadn’t guessed that. Gah, ALL THE FEELINGS. ALL OF THEM. In the gut. That’s what these little people do to you, they make you feel everything all the time. But it’s totally worth it.
Ok, so after that particular cry comes the “I hope I’m not fucking up my kid” Cry. It’s a doozy. This one hits at other times too but it’s strongest on birthdays. Because, back to my first point, they are getting older. More independent. They are becoming their own person. And whatever person they are becoming is ALL MY FAULT! The good, the bad, and everything in between. If they have “issues”, its clearly me. If they throw a tantrum or hit their sibling, obviously it’s because I’ve totally screwed them up. If they are too passive or too quick to please, yep, Momma did that. If they don’t share, don’t eat their veggies, pick their nose, or, God forbid, become a Yankees fan, well, clearly I fucked up somewhere along the line. Let’s just start investing now for their future therapy sessions. Why?!?! Why do I do this to myself? ARG!!!!!!!! (Mind you, if they are a total genius with a heart of gold, that is just them, how did I get so lucky!?!)
By then end of the day(s)…because we like birthdays to be a multi day celebration here… there is always the complete let down from all the hype – the party that I planned for two months is over; the gifts have all been opened, the beautiful wrapping tossed aside; a new toy is already broken; someone, besides me, has cried; at some point, near the end, I have yelled; and we have all had our sugar crash, literally and figuratively. And I cry. This time, mostly, because I am tired, but with a little of everything else mixed in too. (I feel like I should apologize to my husband here because he usually gets this one, in bed, at the end of the day, and it’s usually those racking sobs that end with sleep).
There is one more little cry, or maybe not even a cry, just a little lump in my throat. It’s selfish and childish and a bit embarrassing, but here is my confession – on my kids’ birthdays, just for one moment, I want someone to acknowledge me. I want someone to say “thanks” or “good job” or even just “I understand”. For all of it. For the carrying the little parasite for nine months, for the labor & delivery (can I get an “AMEN!”), for the 8,972 diapers that I’ve changed, for the hugs and kisses and snotty noses and scraped knees and hours of rocking and reading the same damn book one million times and for my now stretched out boobs….But mostly, I want someone to recognize the sheer weight of being a momma. It’s my day too, damnit.