My newly minted four-year-old looks at me slightly confused but with full confidence that I will have just the right answer to this question. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Her actual birthday was more than two weeks ago deep in the heart of the summer. We celebrated with extended family during a beach vacation, but I haven’t planned a proper birthday party for her, the one with all her friends, a big cake and a surprise visit from a favorite princess. The one she’s been talking about all summer.
When my older two were younger, I went all out planning and executing the most amazing birthday parties for them. For Ella’s first birthday I rented a petting zoo complete with chickens, ducks and a miniature meh-ing goat. Then there was the elaborate woodland puppet show, a princess party with a visit from Cinderella and the Under The Sea party for which I painstakingly created a treasure hunt and a Pin-the-Tail on the Mermaid game. Ruby, my now 10-year-old, celebrated with a teacher-led music party, a Hawaiian themed party, an art studio party and a Fancy Nancy Tea Party.
I spent hours imagining and creating, scouring party stores and online stores for just the right coordinated napkins, paper lanterns and matching goody bag treats. I had to get it just right. It had to be magical, unforgettable. Perfect.
Meanwhile, of Lilah’s four birthdays, she’s had only one party. Last year I rented out a picnic area at the zoo, bought a bunch of ride tickets and fed everyone snacks and cupcakes. Totally fun, but not at all fancy. I look at my daughter’s sweet, expectant face and feel a twinge of guilt: why don’t I go to the same effort for my third child the way I did my other two?
Thirteen years ago when I first became a mom, I struggled. I wasn’t sure what motherhood was supposed look like, feel like. I decided to stay at home full time, but felt restless. The days ran tedious and long punctuated by moments of joy, but few of the accomplishment I was used to. Frustrated and confused, I didn’t want to admit to the sliver of empty slowly expanding inside me. Instead I kept busy creating a perfectly choreographed and decorated childhood – the cutest nursery bedding, the most delicious organic homemade baby food, the hippest toddler t-shirts. The birthday parties were my crowning glory. Motherhood didn’t come naturally to me, but putting on an unforgettable party? That I could do.
When I found out I was pregnant with Lilah, I freaked out a little. Ruby was almost six and I wasn’t sure I could do the new motherhood thing again and be okay. It took the whole nine months for me to decide to be okay, to forgive myself for not loving every minute of motherhood and know I’m still a good mom. I decided I would fill that sliver of empty with the sustenance I needed – writing, time on my own, connecting with friends. Most importantly, I knew I had to slow down, ditch the busy and the perfection and just be with my girls. If I manage to throw a super-amazing birthday party too, that’s just an added bonus.
I gaze down into the chocolate brown eyes of my littlest girl. In the last four years, this child has brought me so much joy, with her never-stays-brushed hair and insistence on wearing the same two pairs of sweatpants all week long. Her child’s desire to always be with me gently reminds me to stay in the moment. The least I can do is throw her a birthday party.
“When’s your party?” I ask, grinning. “Whenever you want.”
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “When I think of birthdays…” and was hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and co-hosts Stacey of This Momma’s Ramblings and Mimi of Mimi Time.