Today is my birthday. Today is also the day we’ve decided to stop celebrating them. Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, to gather together as a family and open presents and eat cake. But today, I did none of that.
You see, Tink has become fixated on birthdays. And it’s not pretty.
Over the last year or so, since her last birthday, she has on a couple of occasions said, “Tink’s birthday?” over and over, to the point where I’ve bought a present from the pound shop, party banners and a cake and had a pretend birthday for her to placate her. Over the top? Maybe, but one of my (now) favourite sayings is ‘choose your battles‘ and this was one that it was easier to go along with than fight.
This week, however, she’s cranked it up a notch.
It started a few days ago when she went to the birthday party of a school friend. As soon as she saw the presents, she was in there, desperate to open them. She simply doesn’t understand that they’re not hers to open. She’d go off and play for a few minutes, then go and sit down right next to the pile, gazing longingly at them. Then she’d come over to me and say “is it Tink’s birthday?” and I’d try to explain that no, it’s not today, but that it is very soon. Nope. Uh-huh. Not having it. She began to get upset.
The entire 30-minute drive home was spent like this:
“Soon, my love!”
“No! Tink’s birthday!”
“Not today. Soon.”
“NO MOMMY!! Tink’s birthday today!”
*sigh* And repeat.
It was draining. For both of us, I’m sure. And it continued for a while once we’d arrived home too, even though The Hubby had prepared and wrapped up a Bing Bunny magazine for her to open. Knowing that this could happen, I wanted to try to avoid a repeat on my upcoming birthday, so I decided that we’d keep it really low-key.
There were no presents to open, only cards. There was no family ‘birthday tea’ planned, and no cake and candles for probably the first of my 41 years. This will be ok. We can get through this without her noticing!
Only, my friend brought round a present the day before, which Tink spotted. Oh no. Here we go. “Tink’s birthday, Mommy? Open my presents?” Eventually we managed to distract her out of it. Phew. Disaster averted. Until today. She remembered, almost as soon as she got up.
“It’s your birthday, Mommy. I open the presents?” (Yes, I could let her open them, but I want her to understand that she can’t always open presents meant for others, or else we’ll have Armageddon when it comes to H’s birthday…) Again, I managed to distract her and she went off to school quite happily, with her new lunch bag, which was good for a Monday! I sat with H and opened my presents and cards, safe in the knowledge that he wouldn’t be at all bothered!
And then she came home. And, out of habit, I had put my cards up on the shelf. I think you can probably guess what came next. Only this time, distraction wasn’t working and we were heading towards total meltdown. She just couldn’t understand that there were no presents to open. It was upsetting. I considered jumping in the car and buying something from the local shop to wrap – I hate to see her so distraught.
So now, we can’t mention birthdays, presents, cake, parties, or anything else that is connected to birthdays and that might set her off. It’s just easier. Of course we can’t always avoid it; she’ll be invited (I hope!) to more parties, and we’ll most definitely be celebrating H’s, but as far as The Hubby and I are concerned, it’s just another day. Maybe a whispered ‘happy birthday’ here or a sneaky card there, but only in secret. My beautiful cards are in a pile until I decide what to do with them, there was no cake, no singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ and no other presents. And if that’s the way birthdays need to be for a while, then we’ll do it.