I love birthdays. I’ve never really been big on celebrating my own but, I am very into celebrating the birthdays of my friends and family. The second week of January we celebrate two birthdays in our family. On Wednesday our oldest daughter, “J” will turn 22 and the next day, our youngest, Thing 2, will turn 5. J is away at college so we won’t be able to celebrate with her (I’m thinking that she’s probably not too torn up about that) but, we did party with the soon to be 5-year-old over the weekend. Let me tell you, 5-year-olds can party like no other!
This is J. Beautiful, isn’t she? She is a sweetheart. Your typical 22-year-old, full of hope, optimism and dreams waiting to be fulfilled. When we met, she was 10 years old and I was definitely NOT her favorite person, to put it mildly. Over the years, we first learned to get along, then develop a friendship. As the years went by, while shopping for homecoming dresses, talking about boys or friends and prepping for college entrance exams, we learned to love and trust one another. She is truly one of my favorite people on the planet, I just don’t get to see enough of her. That’s one of the bad things about sending your children away to college. Oh, and she is definitely the most glamorous person in my life!
I think that the reason that I’m so intent on celebrating the birthdays of those that I love is because it’s such a perfect opportunity to make precious memories and to mark rites of passage. The day (sometimes week) is all about them and each year there’s something new to observe or to anticipate coming over the next year of their life. I love that anticipation and discovery. Obviously with J, it’s all about her moving further into adulthood and her upcoming college graduation. However, with the little ones, things are a bit simpler than that. It may seem so small but, with Thing 1 and Thing 2 we decided to make them wait until their fifth birthday before they could get their ears pierced. It gave them something to look forward to and helped to mark the transition from “Little Girl” to “Big Girl”. When Thing 1 turned 5, the only thing she wanted was her ears pierced. It didn’t matter that her ears hurt a bit when it was done, she was over the moon! And when she started Kindergarten later that year, she was officially a Big Girl! As I’m sure that you can imagine, the build up to Thing 2’s 5th birthday and ear-piercing has reached a fever pitch. Of course, we make a day of it. After the piercing we have lunch and get mani/pedis. It’s a total experience that she has been waiting for 18 months!
Now, lest you think that I’m crazy, two things play in my mind here. The first one is that children, girls in particular, in today’s society are pushed at such an early age to be adults. They are encouraged to dress like miniature women, listen to adult music, watch television and movies that have increasingly adult themes and are generally exposed to a more adult way of life. I find that I not only want to but, I have to hold on to certain privileges to allow them to grow into the next phase of their lives at a more appropriate pace. For other parents it may be when they allow their children to attend their first sleepover, wear high heels or makeup or even get their first cell phone. It just feels like children today are growing up way too fast so indulge me this one opportunity to let my girls have a Big Girl moment.
The other thing is that the day that I got my ears pierced is one of my favorite memories of time spent with my mother. I was 11 and she was 47 and she had planned a very similar outing to the one I described above. We dressed up and went to downtown Davenport, Iowa (I’m from a small town across the river in Illinois) to this really swanky store called Scharfs. Mom told me that it wouldn’t hurt a bit and she went first. I watched her and asked again if it hurt and she assured me that it was painless. Upon getting my first ear done, I realized that she had lied. She held my hand through the second one and apologized but, she knew that I would not have sat in the chair if I had known the truth. Afterward, we left and did what we did best…SHOPPED! We ended our afternoon with dinner and it remains one of my most favorite memories ever. These are the memories that I want to leave with my children because something so small can leave the biggest impressions.
So, as I wish two of my princesses a very happy birthday, I look forward to what this next year will bring to them. I am so looking forward to seeing J in her cap and gown and embark on her post collegiate life. As for Thing 2, every day is an adventure with her and I really just want to get her to stop sucking her thumb. Let the 2013 birthdays begin!