I’ve written before, extensively, that the last thing you ever want to do is have a baby in February. It’s a short sucker punch of a month, guaranteed to destroy your will to live. Adding a birthday in makes it like wandering through a malaria swamp teaming with alligators when you’re not Stephen Fry doing a documentary–namely #theworstthingever.
Perhaps I jest, a little. Still. Don’t have a baby in February. Just don’t. Is there any suffering like my suffering? I don’t think so.
Indulged in pre birthday despair by sitting in my pew on Sunday, during communion, holding my wriggling almost six year old and remembering how fat and squishy she was as a baby. Felt completely undone with grief and loss. Don’t normally indulge in sentimental nostalgia At All. Babies grow up, it’s what they do. When they don’t it’s a peculiar hardship for mother and child. Still, holding on to a shouting six year old and looking back in your mind’s eye to her wide mouth and capacious thighs is pretty devastating. That’s why I try never to do it.
On Tuesday it dawned on me that I was going to have to go shopping. This is the part where you look back at your one-year-old-single-baby motherhood and realize that the massive birthday with presents tradition was a bad idea. No matter how much you scale back from that first extravaganza–from a party of fifty to a party of ten to a party of siblings–the fact that you gave presents at all is going to always stick in every child’s mind. Why didn’t you do the minimalist thing and give the one year old a rubber duck for the bath and a muffin from the store with a candle stuck in? Why Didn’t You! I’ll tell you why. Because in 2003 when your first child turned one, minimalism wasn’t a thing, it wasn’t there on Facebook and twitter making you feel bad. You were just digging through your piles of stuff with a shovel in the usual way, as from time immemorial, or the 80s, because That’s What Americans Do. Then when your third child turned two you got sucked into a piñata–but that was Before all the economy went away. So now you’re on the sixth birthday with the sixth kid, wandering around, demoralized, looking for something bright and shiny that you hope you’ll be able to throw away in ten months.
Advice for new parents planning to have more than one child–DON’T GIVE PRESENTS. Go to Wegmans, by a rubber duck and a big muffin, sing happy birthday and call it Good. Just like God called it all good when he was creating everything. If you feel like that’s weird, call it Good Enough.
On Wednesday I realized that I was going to have to produce birthday food. That’s a nice tradition. If you search the internet for scaled back birthdays you’ll always find some unhelpful mother has listed, “let the child pick xer special dinner” or some such nonsense. “Maybe a special breakfast will make the day special!” Yeah, maybe. Or maybe you’ll be drug from your bed at dawn to make pancakes with no milk and no will to live any more. The snow will fall gently from the sky and you’ll remember Again that the special breakfast tradition Should Have meant picking a box of sugar cereal from the store, not Mother Making Breakfast.
Because as soon as Mother had made breakfast, Mother had to begin making lunch. Now, remember, my thyroid looks like it’s been beat with a blunt instrument. It is definitely healing on its own, but I still stand around, wan and pale, looking like someone who’s thyroid has been beat with a blunt instrument. In my world, I either make food, or I do something else, Like The School We All Need To Be Doing. Furthermore, I’m not a big fan of not doing school just because it snowed or it’s someone’s birthday. I don’t have a house full of little kids for whom school can entail making play-dough or taking a nature walk, or, worse yet, Helping Mother Cook (spare me, O My God, for the waters are rising up to my neck). But this brave new world meant that we didn’t do school. Or, at least, I didn’t, which meant only the two children who can function on their own did anything.
Little Eglantine picked her Special Birthday Lunch out of the perversity of her heart that we have all come to endure day by day–Ham, Mashed Potatoes, and, wait for it…Broccoli. Mmmm Mmmmmm. Of course, she didn’t really want to eat this lunch, fattened as she was on pancakes, and neither did anyone else. I mean, mashed potatoes are delicious. But most children pick the lyrical delights of Peanut Sauce, Meat Pie, or Crepes. No one, literally No One has ever picked broccoli. Anyway, I burned it so we don’t have to eat the left overs today, thank heaven.
A great mercy, though, was that she picked an Apple Pie rather than any kind of cake. So unable to bake a good cake. Can produce a pie, though. That’s not too bad. Except for no upper body strength left. Took twice as long to make the dough. Really, though I do say it myself, I do turn out a good apple pie.
Eglantine, of course, oversaw all the cooking of the food with despotic enjoyment. She hovered, tripping me up at every turn, asking me what I was doing and when was I going to get to the broccoli. Her eyes were like a flame of fire, alit with power.
Here she is with the enormous My Little Pony Unicorn that I lugged home from Walmart, made, undoubtedly, in China. #sorrynotsorry
Today she gets, finally, to have her Birthday Tea with friends. May God have mercy on my soul. Fortunately, the friends know who I am and know that I cannot possibly de-grime my house for such an occasion. All I’m going to be able to do is make finger sandwiches or something, but no cake. Not going to even try my hand at a cake.
And now, as you wag your head over my suffering, go read more and better takes. Kelly, today, takes on the question of the capsule wardrobe. You won’t want to miss it. Pip pip.