It’s only taken me 32 years, but I’ve finally figured it out.
My entire life, I’ve always found my birthday kind of disappointing. This isn’t because my life isn’t filled with thoughtful people who love me. It’s because I’ve had unrealistic expectations. Remember in “Sleepless in Seattle” when Rosie O’Donnell tells Meg Ryan, “you don’t want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie”? Well, I’ve always wanted it to be my birthday in a movie. I want surprise parties. Copious amounts of flowers which weren’t purchased at the grocery store. Fancy cakes. Jugglers. Pony rides. Fancy gifts, like a trip to Hawaii. I don’t want my birthday — I want Oprah’s birthday.
My poor husband. Not only is my birthday the same week as Mother’s Day, it is also only two weeks after our anniversary. Add to that the fact that I’ve been pregnant or nursing a baby almost constantly for the last ten years, which is a hormonal roller coaster, and my above-described unrealistic expectations, and you have a lot of misery and guilt trips for a husband. I almost always have a complete meltdown on or around my birthday.
Here’s my big revelation for this year. I don’t need someone else to plan my ideal birthday. I can make my own. Why has it taken me so long to figure this out? And I don’t really need it to be fancy or fabulous.
One night this week, I snuggled up to Matt in bed and told him what I wanted. I wanted to take our children to a fun restaurant — one which does not serve chicken nuggets — of my choice. I wanted him to take them shopping and help them choose small, appropriate gifts for me for my birthday and for Mother’s Day. I expected not to cook dinner on Mother’s Day. I’d also like a couple of hours “off.” Oh, and don’t bother buying a cake at the grocery store — I’d rather make my own. He appreciated my specificity. The next morning he said, “Hey would you mind emailing me at work with an outline of your expectations for the weekend? I was a little sleepy last night.”
Last night we took our kids to Tepanyaki (that’s the name and also the format — kind of like a pizza place called “Pizza”). Don’t bother telling me that this isn’t authentic Japanese food. I know. I still like it. And I have great childhood memories of a little place called Shoji’s. This used to be an occasional treat when I was a kid, and we found the knife-juggling chefs delightful. My boys felt the same way. They loved the onion-slice volcano, set on fire. They loved trying to catch a shrimp in their mouth. They loved the little chunks of meat, and trying to eat with chopsticks. I loved watching their faces light up. It was the perfect birthday dinner.
Matt took the boys to the grocery store after dinner to pick out cards and gifts (their gifts included Mike and Ikes, Junior Mints, and Hershey bars — I think they’ve been paying attention.) Bonus: He got their hair cut while he was at it.
People have done many nice things for me today. I had a couple of hours of shopping all by myself — heavenly. Matt came up with a great surprise — tickets to “Wait, wait, don’t tell me,” (if you don’t listen to NPR on Saturdays, you’re missing out). My sister Anne gave me a “Tremendous Tote of Targety Treats” (her words, not mine — if you don’t love Target, I can’t possibly understand why not). It has been a lovely, lovely day. And I haven’t cried. Not even once.