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I Am Jealous Of My Daughter’s Birthday

Photo: Aaron "tango" Tang

Photo: Aaron “tango” Tang

I am jealous of my daughter’s birthday

This week, my brilliant and sensitive miracle turns seven. I won’t ask where the time went, because I know exactly where it was spent: in days and moments of frustration and elation, in nights and lifetimes of agony and bliss. The Kidlet is growing into herself, and it is wonderful. This birthday really is something to celebrate.

So why do I feel like a pouting teenager?

In the life of a child, birthday is magic. It is THE day, the time when the world stops spinning and you truly become the centre of all things. Parents, family, friends, teachers – everyone in your life bends to make your day special. In the big picture, a birthday is a ritual to mark the passage of time. For a child, a birthday is the proof they matter. They are indulged, pampered and honored.

birthday, candles, cake

Birthday Cake by Will Clayton (CC BY 2.0)

In the life of the adult, a birthday becomes more rote. I had a birthday earlier this month. It was lovely. My dear partner in crime made me an extravagant cake. My children bought me various things with pictures of owls on them. I put off chores to another day. My Facebook feed crackled with well-wishes from friends around the world. I am not complaining about my birthday. I am missing the feeling it used to give me.

My children plan their birthdays all year long. Details are debated and considered with the deep reflection reserved for the most crucial of life choices. I think my kiddos spend more time thinking about birthday cake design than I did choosing a life partner.

In the land of the child birthday, the day itself is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface is eleven and a half months of delicious anticipation and buzzing excitement

The last time I had such a rush of pleasurable expectation was a decade ago, for my wedding. Nowadays, everything about my birthday seems to feel more like work than joy. I don’t make a fuss about my birthday because I am already underwater with my to-do list. I no longer see myself as the center of anything; I am the laborer who makes things happen for other people. It may be a mark of maturity or a less popular feature of motherhood, but it makes me a little sad.

I want to want things with the fervent excitement I see in my daughter. I want to be consumed with the happiness that comes from being the focus of celebration. I don’t want to see it all as too much work, and dismiss the impulse as childish.

So I am jealous of her birthday. Maybe I am really in awe of her youth. It is her non-jaded worldview I covet. In the end it does not matter, because no matter what twinges of envy pinch my nerves, I will spend the month making her feel as special and loved as she is. Happy Birthday, Kidlet. Your day will be everything you dreamed.

birthday, candles

Photo: Birthday Cake by Jessica Diamond (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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