Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Birthday Blues

I used to love my birthday. When I was growing up, I felt extremely lucky: I was born on Columbus Day, and back in those days, I got the day off from school, no matter which day of the week the 12th actually occurred. That, combined with the fact that I share my birthday with a sister I adore (in the days when twins were a rarity), meant that I always felt special and loved on my birthday.

Perhaps it was those happy memories of my childhood that set up the high expectations that I had for my birthday yesterday. I knew that the kids would be home from school and my husband would be home from work, meaning for me, that we'd celebrate the day together. Alas, it was not to be.

It wasn't that they forgot what day it was... it was just that they didn't care.

DH wished me a happy birthday as he got out of bed. But then he proceeded to make his own breakfast and coffee (I prefer a different blend). I waited a bit to see if he was arranging anything special (as I often do for him on his birthday and on Fathers' Day), but it was soon clear that there was nothing. His gift to me was to take me to a concert of Romantic music (Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninoff) -- which I had been greatly looking forward to until he had mocked it the day before, saying he wished he hadn't gotten himself into this and that he'd rather stay home and watch the Jets game.

His other "gift" was to load up my iphone with all my contact and appointment info. A great service (and I love that he's my tech guy!), but it is something he promised to do months ago (the iphone was a Mothers' Day gift) and so wasn't fun or a surprise, or even really a gift, if we're honest about it. It was kind of like me unloading the dishwasher (a chore everyone in the family hates) and calling it a gift to him.

What really got me upset though, was my kids' attitude toward the day. Not only had they neglected to prepare anything in advance (not even a homemade card), despite reminders as the big day approached, but they were openly belligerent. They pushed me off the best spots on the couch, demanded that I wait on them, and practically laughed at the idea that they should be doing anything special for me!!

So I left the house in extreme anger. I spent a lovely afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum by myself (including a wonderful meal and birthday cupcake) and then returned home for a run. By this time, they had pulled together a few trinkets and purchased a little cake, but I was having none of it. My run was more energetic than in weeks - fueled by my rage - and following a fast shower, I went out to my concert (great music!).

Even by this morning, the pain of their rejections still lingered. I make wonderful birthday celebrations for my family and it still bothers me that they don't care enough to do the same for me. DH says they're just kids -- but I think that at 8 and 12 they are old enough to actively show appreciation.

I plan parties and choose presents with care. I put a great deal of love and thought and advanced preparation into these tasks. And I look forward to the joy I know that my efforts will bring to my DH and my children. So it really hurt when I realized that there is no one thinking about giving me joy on my special day. I'm not even talking about wanting expensive jewelry or status bags or designer clothes. I simply wanted some acknowledgement that my family wanted me to be happy and feel loved on my birthday.

It wouldn't have taken much to do this. There were blueberry muffins in the fridge -- they could have stuck a candle on one of them and sung to me, and I would have been pleased. They could have handed me the television remote and told me that all day long they only wanted me to watch "my" shows, and I would have been overjoyed. They could have covered me with hugs and kisses and declarations of love, and my day would have been complete. But they didn't do any of these things, and the stuff that they did do later on felt like a little, too late. The gifts I ultimately received were given out of guilt rather than out of a true desire to demonstrate affection. And so they are worthless to me.

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