Somewhere on Pinterest a mother is filling a bedroom with 17 balloons for a 17th birthday. Better yet, it’s the Internet, let’s make that 170.
Another mom has prepared breakfast foods shaped like party hats and birthday cakes, or hosted a surprise birthday breakfast or brunch. Some handed out tickets for all day spa treatments and mall sprees. I get it.
Birthdays are so much fun. I have somewhat skirted around almost being those kind of parents a few times. For the most part, however, we must pity BoyWonder and GirlWonder, born into a family that doesn’t go crazy over birthdays.
We aren’t anti-birthday. You get a bash on your first birthday because what is better than a party that completely overwhelms you and that you cannot remember?
Later we would host a couple friends parties throughout the years. These are really just an excuse to fill the yard and pool with sugared up kids waving a stick in a pinata while we take cute photos. Good times.
Parties then transition to a shopping day and lunch out, your favorite birthday dinner and cake. Far-flung family and friends send well wishes and cards, and we call it good.
Still, I felt somewhat a slacker for not making a bigger deal out of GirlWonder’s 17th birthday. It’s not really a milestone year for anyone. You don’t get your driver’s license.
You’re not officially a teenager. You don’t even reach the magical world of double digits.
I think for a parent it is a milestone because it is officially the last year of being a child. If all goes well on your next birthday, you are in the eyes of the government (if certainly not your parents) grown.
Her father and I sit back and can scarcely believe that 17 years ago today we sat both bored out of my mind and simultaneously scared to death in a hospital room waiting for our second born child to make her debut. Knowing what we now know, it’s completely possibly she took so long because she was doing her hair in utero.
Still, in many ways that second child is more frightening than the first. You know what to expect, but then again not.
Seventeen years ago I couldn’t imagine loving anyone like we did our first born child. Then she arrived in a flurry of activity and no small scare, limp but blessedly healthy.
They quickly had her set to rights, assessed her Apgar scores (already golden, that’s our girl!) and wrapped her in the standard hospital blanket. They plunked a tiny pink stocking hat on her head, as if she were a tiny and impossibly cute bank robber, and handed me my baby girl.
I gazed at her and wondered how I could ever doubt our capacity to love another baby. She was purple and pointy and perfect.
Hours later her not quite 2-year-old brother was brought to visit. He marched over, peered over the blanket into her wizened little face and said, “Wanna go outside?” Those words would be prophetic as he has been leading her on adventures ever since.
Later we tucked her tiny warm bundle into his pudgy arms. Pillows propping them, and parents hovering, we solemnly told him she was his baby, too.
Being a man of his word, he took that to heart and has spent her whole life being the best advocate, champion, protector and big brother he can be.
For her part, GirlWonder is spending the day with the Cutest Boyfriend Ever (patent pending).
I’ve been asked if that bothers me? To this I say, “Heaven’s no.”
It may have been a few years ago, but I really was young once. Frankly, if she wanted to spend her birthday with her parents and older brother instead the Cutest Boyfriend Ever, I would be shocked.
I would also check her for fever. These days we know that we have to share. It takes a village to raise a child, and we have been blessed with the most wonderful of villages.
This year we watched as GirlWonder was praised, feted and birthday blessed by family far and wide. Throughout the community, she was showered with gifts and well wishes. Coworkers, younger girls, the parents of those girls, and many more all took time from their busy days to wish our not-so-baby girl a very happy birthday.
That touches me more than 17,000 balloons, endless cake or any party could.
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