My eight-year old Mae is a bit birthday obsessed right now. It started on March 1. Shortly after she woke up, some of her first words were, “Can we celebrate my birthday all month long?” Her birthday is March 25. That’s a lot of build-up. She caught me off-guard; we haven’t done month-long celebrations in the past. So, I said, “Uhhh . . . make a list of things you would like to do for your birthday and then we’ll see.” (I have found that asking for a list is a great way to get the kids to leave me alone about something. It buys me valuable time to think. I also secretly hope that after the list is made, they will come to their senses and realize how greedy/unreasonable/unrealistic they are being. This hasn’t happened yet.)
There was one thing I already knew Mae wanted for her birthday. Back in January, she asked if she could take cupcakes to school. She had discussed it with a classmate whose birthday is the day before and they agreed that their moms should bring cupcakes. Then, I met the clasmate’s mom on a field trip. She and I talked and agreed that we would
grant their request do as we were told. Since then, Mae has said to me at least twice that she wants cupcakes but they should be cookies instead. I haven’t figured out what this means, and I’ll sort it out closer to the date.
Meanwhile, I’m planning an overnight stay for her and me in New York for the weekend after her birthday. She is super excited about this, and I’m getting hit with all kinds of questions about what we’re going to do in the city. Yesterday, though, she said to me, “we’ve been talking a lot about my birthday, but we haven’t talked much about presents. Am I still going to get presents from my family and friends?” I began my annual spiel about how birthdays are not about presents.
Me: Birthdays are about celebrating life and spending time with family and friends.
Her: I know, I know. But, present control is important.
Those are her actual words: “present control”.
I don’t even know what that means. She continued talking about presents. I heard more words coming from her in the back seat but I can’t tell you what she said. I was asking myself over and over, “Did she really just say “present control”? Then, my mind went to how hard I’ve tried to emphasize people and relationships over things; gratitude; not taking things for granted; and all that good stuff. And, lo and behold, she’s trying to implement “present control,” whatever that is.
Three years ago, when she turned six, she had a birthday party and we asked the guests to bring a gift for the children’s hospital in DC instead of for Mae. A few weeks later, she and I delivered the gifts to the hospital. That was too long ago, and it’s time for another
attitude gratitude shift.
She’s too busy during the week right now with homework, but during the summer, I hope we can find a regular volunteer activity that will help her gain a greater appreciation for what it means to have and have not.