I don't like birthdays.
Every year when mine comes around I secretly hope that everyone will just forget about it so that I can pretend I'm still 24. I'd rather think of myself as the age I feel, versus the age that is says on paper. Honestly, if it just passed me by without note so I could forget about it, I'd be perfectly happy.
But I have a confession - it's not just my birthday I don't like...I don't like my kids' birthdays either.
GASP! I'm a horrible mother!!
Now wait, before anyone goes all "tsk, tsk" on me, let me rephrase...I love celebrating the day of my children's birth. Those were two of the best days of my life, hands down. And I love giving them a party in their honor and making their day incredibly special. What I don't like about them is purely selfish...birthdays remind me that they are growing up way too fast.
And I cry.
Not in front of them, of course. But the night before their birthday as I go to sleep, I cry. I cry about how quickly they are growing up and how much I still want to do with them and how awful a mother I sometimes am for yelling too much or being too busy and I cry because, OH MY GOSH...one day soon (sniffle, sniffle) Little Man will ignore me in the halls at school (sniffle) because I'm just not cool anymore and then the next day he'll be all grown up with a wife and kids of his own and...gasp...it's all JUST TOO MUCH!!
Yup, I'm that irrational.
I just love the age that they are at. Whatever age that is, I love that one and I don't want them to grow out of it. The phrase, "I wish they could stay little forever," I've repeated at least a thousand times. I've even thought that if I could just keep them (this age) forever, I would. But then something happened...
Little Man's birthday is this Sunday. He'll be 9.
(9!?! Oh my, that's one year away from double digits! Cue panic attack!!)
He has been talking about his big day non-stop for weeks now. During one of his excited conversations about all he wanted to do, I looked at him with a wistful smile and said, "You're growing up so quickly. You need to stop! It makes me sad!"
Little Man stopped what he was doing and after thinking about it for a few minutes, nearly in tears, he said, "I'm sorry Mom. I don't mean to make you sad, but I can't stop growing up. And I want to grow up. I'm sorry."
Worst. Mother. Ever.
Such simple words, spoken in what was meant to be an endearing way...those words were some of the cruelest words I could have said. I wish I could take them back. But this interaction certainly opened my eyes and made me think. A lot. And I came to some realizations...
While I said what I did because I love each age my kids are at and I can't imagine the day they are grown and out on their own, it was completely unfair of me to say. For one thing, they can't control growing up any more than I can control this crazy Midwest weather. And telling them to stop growing up - even in a loving, completely un-serious way - makes them feel like they are doing something wrong and that they have disappointed me. When in fact, the way they are growing makes me so proud and in awe of them. And as much as I love this age, I honestly can't wait to see them at 10, 16, 21, and every age beyond.
But even more than it being an unfair statement to say to my kids, this conversation made me realize something even deeper...wishing my kids could stay this age forever, or that they would stop growing up, well, what does that really mean? That I would freeze them in time, denying them the opportunity to live their lives and experience all the wonders they are yet to know? Or by saying that I wish they would stop growing up and stay 8 or 6 forever, if you really think about it, if they stopped growing up then that wouldn't mean that they stopped living? And that's as far as I go with that one...
What I said was never meant in any of those ways - not even close - I had never thought about those statements and their impact. Of course that's not what I meant. I love watching my children grow. They amaze me every day and I am so excited for their futures. It does make me sad to think of the days when they are no longer living under my roof and are out on their own, but I will be so proud of all that they have accomplished and who they have become.
This simple conversation, which I'm pretty sure Little Man has forgotten yet I never will, has made me change my thinking. Yes, I still at times wish we could all remain in our current state, it's only because I love where we are all at right now. But I will love us tomorrow, and next year, and 10 years from now too. And instead of wishing that my kids could stay this age forever, I will enjoy the age they are at and the memories we will make.
I've also changed my words a bit. Now instead of saying that I wish my kids would stop growing up or wishing that they could stay 8 and 6 forever, I've started telling them that I love the way they are growing up. That I love the kind, wonderful people that they are turning in to. And their reaction to these statements? Oh, their smiles. Let me tell you, they reach from ear to ear. These simple words make them light up and make them feel good. That's how I want them to feel, not guilty for something they can't control.
So while I'm still not a fan of my own birthday, I'm looking at my kids' birthdays in a new way from now on. Instead of crying over the things that I can't control and the mistakes I've made in parenting, I'm going to take that time to look at all they have accomplished and reflect on the memories we've created. We will celebrate their growth and their futures...and eat lots of cake :)