Last month my oldest daughter turned 11. It was the first time she had a low-key birthday, spent ‘just hanging out’ with only a few friends. As per her request, there was no official party nor a cake with candles. Actually, it was a day much like any other, and for the first time I had no special duties except some driving around for the birthday girl and said friends. So, again, a day like all others.
To her, it was a wonderful day and would tell anyone it was the best. Myself? I paced a lot, unnerved by the feeling that something was terribly off.
I spent the majority of her birthday in a fog, thinking back to parties past and all the balloons and laughter that was synonomous this very special day. Hours upon hours of shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, and preparing; tons of work for a couple fun hours which were over in a flash. Then with bellies and hearts full, we’d flail onto the couch with a feeling of happiness.
It’s a crazy event, but an anticipated tradition nonetheless.
This year, there was none of that.
My Isabelle is my oldest, the one that made me a mother. In her is all the firsts of parenting, someone I’ve literally watched grow before my eyes for, well, 11 years.
Instead of 100’s of lively and colourful photos like birthdays past, there are 2 of her 11th birthday. One of Isabelle and her friends together, with 8 eyeballs shooting me the ‘is this over yet?‘ look. Another is them sitting together for burgers and milkshakes, which is a comical photo, complete with a few closed eyes and mouths munching. As much as I love these two photos, they make me feel a little sad, as they are proof of the remarkable difference when compared to past years.
Actually, looking back, there’s barely evidence of a birthday at all. Thus, I’m sure in my old age I won’t even remember that these photos are from her birthday. Likewise, when she is old herself, she’ll look through my photos and think we skipped her 11th birthday altogether.
The point is, the anniversary of her birth is deserving of a grand celebration. How can I not be unsettled by the fact that the traditional big bash feels past-tense now? I refuse to settle for this being something that used to be worthy of a grand hoopla.
So, are kids birthday celebrations for them, or us? … It’s ok to admit that we need them too.
Fast forward to another day, much like many others. It was chaos with: appointments, meetings, school pick-up, a quick clothing change, dance, cheer, cook, eat, homework, and then bed. After I tucked in the twins, my oldest came upstairs to grab a glass of water.
I took a look at her 11 year-old self and couldn’t resist, “I miss you”, I said to her.
Indeed, I missed her so much despite her being right in front of me. I missed the baby, toddler, and school-age her; my sidekick whom was without fail, always with me. Now, it’s middle school and sports, friends and a social life more active than my own. Somedays I feel like I don’t see my sidekick at all. It’s the truth, I miss her.
“I Miss you too, Mom”, and she hugged me tight.
Since some past rules seem to be breaking, I decided to add another into the mix, “Wanna have a treat with me before bed?”
“Sure!“, her eyes lit up like that toddler I remember from a Christmas long ago.
I brought a Deep ’n Delicious® Chocolate Cake, plates and forks to the table; then sat down across from her.
As I cut two sections for her and myself, I sang ‘Happy Birthday‘ in my head. I closed my eyes and pictured her younger self with an oversized party hat, a massive silly grin, blowing out candles with all her might, with applause all around.
We both took our first creamy bite of Deep ’n Delicious® cake.
“So … 11 huh?” I said.
I thought about that for a moment before saying, “Love you sweetie”
“Love you too Mom“, she replied, and in a way that told me she truly meant it.
I finally got to share that much-needed slice of cake with my birthday girl, on her unbirthday. It was only then that I found some peace from nagging restlessness.
It was a perfect quiet moment shared with just my newly turned 11 year old daughter. A moment that was desperately needed, and highly deserved. I have a feeling she needed this undeclared celebration just as much as I did.
Disclosure: This post was brought to you by McCain Foods Canada. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author
and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of McCain Foods Canada.