July is birthday month around here.
My wee Samurai kicks us off on the 1st, followed by her older sister's birthday on the 3rd. You can only imagine how that goes down. Your little sister has her birthday first and the day between feels like an effing eternity, so tantruming it out is the best thing to do. But I digress.
A hefty handful of family birthday's follow, not to mention the good ol' 4th of July. Needless to say there is a lot of celebrating going on.
Despite having an uncanny memory for anyone and everyone's birthday, birthdays were never my thing. Or perhaps it's because gifts are not my love language. Similar to Christmas there is too much pressure, and quite honestly, I prefer experiences - quality time with my favorite people, a hike, a picnic, a fancy dinner, a flight to Greece - over some gift you felt pressured to give me.
Gift giving, is also a struggle. I'm happy to give the gift of a delicious meal I prepared, or packing your bags for a surprise trip, or buying you a book to read while sitting next to me in quiet. Beyond that, I'm left dumbfounded.
As I write this, I sit in the still aftermath of a giddy pool party, the last installment of birthday week. I take that back, I had to take a nap after everyone left. I was toast.
Leading up to July, the wonder and excitement of my girls is rather contagious: the counting down of days, the crossing off each calendar square with a monster, unruly "X," and wide-eyes as we discuss birthday plans. It's endearing. Simple pure joy.
But let's be honest, for the parent, back to back birthdays, especially for competitive sisters, is challenging.
The Samurai was totally down with visiting the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield. Ironically as it sounds being a nutrition coach, I recommend the trip out there. Perhaps not on a weekend since you won't see any live jelly belly action in the factory, but regardless, the tour is still a good time. I even tried a few flavors and enjoyed them; coconut and strawberry jam topped my list. Shocking because for most of my life I thought jelly beans were the worst candy ever made.
Not quite sugared out, more treats ensued as we rounded out her day at Pressed Juicery for a soft serve dessert. At least I didn't feel bad about this dessert since it's made with dates and almonds.
Soon enough Charlie Bear's birthday arrived. Thank goodness! Having taken the day off, I was intent on spending some one-on-one time with my 7-year old! She aches for quality time and we simply don't have enough of it. Truth be told, that one-on-one time with my children is pure gold. No rivalry, no bickering, only their sweet souls in pure bliss with all of the attention.
We chatted over a steamer and matcha, we hugged, we held hands, we did our own business (a little bit of work for me and for her, a puzzle) at home, until we picked up Sam from school to have a picnic before heading out to the Oakland zoo. In the blazing July, afternoon sun, we had our fill of animals, carousels, and even a rollercoaster before heading home.
To make it fair, since her sister had a treat even after the Jelly Belly factory, we stopped for her requested bubble tea at Mr. Green Bubble. Dessert before dinner? Only on your birthday lady! However, being a Tuesday, which meant TACOS, it was imperative not to get full!
I spell all of this out because the heartbreaking moment came after dinner, after this full day of fun, love, and splurging.
I can't even recall what started it, but I found myself with a screaming 7-year old telling me I was the worst. Words loosely falling out of her mouth as she stomped up the stairs, declaring that no one liked her.
Perplexed, I tried to name off all of the amazing things we did that day; that I did out of love.
I tell ya, 7:45 - 8:15pm in our household, is a witching hour.
By that time of day, we've held it together for so long that we fall apart. Our brains want to shut off. We're physically and mentally done, yet still awake. We're tired but before we manage to climb in to bed and keep our mouths shut, we turn into reactive, ugly creatures. It's so common it's nearly become a terrible habit I'm aware I need to stop.
Once we were able to regain control, which involved a hug - one that can take up to 20 minutes to receive because we're all to stubborn to initiate - we chatted and the statement that broke this mama's heart was:
"I don't think I'm important to you."
Talk about a punch to the gut.
Immediately tears streamed down my face and thoughts raced: How can she articulate this thought already? Where did I fail her? Why does she feel this?
Her caring nature took over as she wiped my tears and told me I didn't need to cry.
I never thought I would hear those words being uttered from either of my babes mouths.
Oh how my heart aches for more freedom. Time with my children that isn't wrought with stress as we race from school or an activity, or chores, or meal prep, or time management of this and that.
I don't accept that this is the only reality of motherhood, of being an adult.
My heart aches for my children to know they are wholly and beautifully loved, even in their imperfect, fumbling messes of childhood.
My heart aches for them to enjoy these moments, to know the tension of joy and disappointment, yet still be content.
My heart aches for them slow down, to not be in a hurry to grow up.
I have no solid conclusion.
I'm still coming to terms with the fact that my babies are no longer babies. Their gangly arms and legs are awkward to carry. Their understanding of the world is expanding. They're more independent, but still need me. It's a transition for all of us.
The only real conclusion is that part of me is glad birthday week is over. The pressure is off for another year, when I'm certain I'll be in shock again at how fast a year flies.
Another conclusion is that by actively working to change our situation - so that we don't get sucked into the time and stress conundrum - by this time next year, we won't have a repeat.
I get it, it's hard to treasure the mundane moments or even be fully present through dinner conversations as my mind races and scans all the things that need to be done against the racing clock.
But like we did that night after hugging it out, and again, for the thousandth time, confirming how important she truly was to me, we read a book together. A birthday gift, A Tree for Peter, I think is going to be a really special book for us. We alternated between reading until both little ones drifted off to sleep on either side of me.
It's these moments I treasure above all. It's these gifts of their lives, of their thoughts, of our time together, reading, even drooling on me as they sleep, that are the best gifts a mama can receive on their birthday - a day that forever changed my life.
Can anyone relate?