I Love My Family More Than Anything, But I Spend My Birthdays Alone (And It Is Glorious)

by Joelle Wisler

The last time I spent my birthday with one of my children, my son was 3 years old. That was seven years ago. I remember thinking about what a great day we were going to have together. I would make pancakes for breakfast, we would go to his gymnastics class, and then we would go out to lunch together at his favorite bagel shop (to ensure maximum 3-year-old agreeability.) I think I probably had visions of us skipping down the sidewalk together, holding hands, with a rainbow trail of balloons following us. Because really what could go wrong?

As it turns out with most 3 year olds, a lot.

When he woke up, he was so excited that it was my birthday — so excited. Maybe a little too excited? The excitement of all that was to come for me, cake, presents, and singing (!) was like a pressure-cooker on his tender 3-year-old brains. My child, who was normally more quiet and reserved, literally lost his mind from the moment he opened his eyes until nap time — seven excruciating hours later. He screamed through breakfast, he argued with me all the way to gymnastics class, and he promptly burst into tears when I gave him his favorite bagel (with chips) at lunch. It was as if he couldn’t handle the enormity of his mommy having a birthday, bless his little demon heart.

I remember asking him, incredulously, as we drove home in utter defeat, “Why are you losing your mind today?” He just sat there, with his bright-red, tear-stained cheeks and said, pitifully, “I don’t know.” And then we both cried because we are criers, and it was the saddest day ever.

So that was the year that I decided that I won’t ever do that to any of us again. I gave myself a solemn vow that on the morning of my birthday each year, I will forevermore send my children on their way to do something else, anything else, with anybody else. We can then all come together at the end of the day, eat some angel food cake, and still love and appreciate each other’s existence.

Almost every other day of the year, it’s all about them. Their activities, their food choices, their nap times, their books, their friends, their needs, their deadlines, even their poop schedules. Call me selfish, but on my birthday, I want to enjoy my day. I want to go for a jog, eat bacon, get a massage, have a grown-up lunch with girlfriends, drive in a car with silence pressing in on my ears like a miracle, and read a book that doesn’t have pictures in it. I want some silent freaking reflection on my life and how I want to spend the next 365 days. One day out of the year is going to be all about me. Dammit.

I love my children. In fact, most days, I love them more than me. I think about them first when I make decisions. I spend a lot of my time teaching them, entertaining them, enjoying them, and harnessing all of that crazy kid energy into something more positive and less destroy-all-the-furniture. I create their worlds filled up with stuff that doesn’t always interest me but means a lot to them.

But I love me too. I’m a decent, functioning, human female juggling a shit-ton of life the best that I can. And I can’t be all Zen and patient and shit if I never have a day that has nothing to do with wiping stuff down. I will have my day. And probably more than just one day, if we’re being honest. Maybe tomorrow, actually.

We all deserve that day. Take it. I’m taking mine.