it’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to


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.


11 thoughts on “it’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to

  1. Emily

    Happy Birthday, Liz. I love your descriptions of this day. It sounds perfect, and it couldn’t have happened to a sweeter person. I’ll bet Matt is endlessly grateful for being told what you want instead of having to guess. It drives Nate crazy when he asks how he can be charming and I tell him that part of the charming-ness is that HE thinks of the idea. Maybe I’ll have to adopt your philosophy of outlining in great detail exactly what I’d like him to do…I think there might be less disappointment over all. Again, Happy Day!

  2. Andrea

    Hey Liz, I had the same expectations about all holidays after you have a boyfriend or get married. Of course, after everything comes out of the same bank account, it’s not as fun to get big extravagant gifts. Junior mints sound pretty good to me. I hope you have a great birthday!

  3. Katy

    So, happy birthday to you!! I had a good birthday this year, but it wasn’t up to Kirsten’s standards. She was very dissappointed that she had not made my birthday what she thought it should be. I went to a surprise birthday party for someone else, but I went with just Kris, it was at very nice country club and I had a very nice free meal. I did have cake but it was someone elses. So, Kirsten had to help make a cake for me and design the decorations for the cake a week later. She was the only one that gave me a gift on my birthday. She gave me “Swell” gum and a cute card. I did get a new stereo a few days later. Kirsten wanted my birthday to be as fun as exciting as her birthdays usually are, the problem is I’m the one that does all the work for her fabulous birthdays.

  4. Rhall

    I’m sure you won’t forget to tell Matt that he is totally wonderful for caring so much about making you happy. You are both blessed.

  5. kira

    ahh Liz…I tell ya Aaron & I were just having a similar conversation about b-day & mother’s day being close. I’ve rediscovered the beauty in homemade gifts. It is so much easier to be surprised by a homemade gift. Hope you had a great b-day!

  6. Kate

    Happy Birthday Liz! It sounds like a perfect day! It was fun to see you at Blaine’s birthday bash…and rude of me not to say goodbye! It was fun to listen to the chatter all around…I for some reason was not in a chatty mood…but enjoyed myself none the less. I will have to take one from your book and email an outline to my husband on my birthdays! What a great idea!! I do love my birthday and I am so glad you are coming around to yours!

  7. Anne

    I’m so glad it was fabulous. I think the memo to husband idea is a revelation. Saturday night Tay said, “So, um, what do you want for Mother’s Day?” This is actually TOTALLY unlike Taylor to kind of drop the ball. So he ironed my skirt for me Sunday morning and made me chocolate ovaltine after church. :) Sunday night I told him, “You know, I don’t really care if you get me a big gift. It is nice to get a card or something, though, because then I know you really thought about it and did something.” He took my constructive criticism well. Truth be told, considering that about 4 days ago I was at rock bottom and saying things like “I hate being a mom,” I think it was a nice Mother’s Day present that he didn’t divorce me. And by the way, I don’t hate being a mom. :)

  8. sillyjillybean

    Can I borrow your spouse for one birthday and mother’s day (j/k)? Do I need to remind you I married a HALL MAN?

  9. Vicki Lambert

    Elizabeth, your comments on birthdays were hilarious. All my kids were sensitive on their birthdays growing up, and I’m still a little tender on my birthday too. Sounds like your birthday was terrific this year. Love ya, Vicki

  10. Pingback: wait, wait « liz

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