Sunday, January 30, 2011

Birthday Girls

I debated all last week on whether I should post about my own birthday. #4 celebrated hers today, so I might as well throw in what I loved about mine. I hope that's not too narcissistic.

First, you must understand that my approach to birthdays is very low key. I know some moms LOVE organizing themed birthday parties with deluxe cakes and clever games. I remember being a little excited about my kids' parties when the first two turned three, but the fun has since worn off for me. For my own birthday, all I really ask for is a date night to a sit-down restaurant with my Kent. I do recognize that birthdays are a big deal to children, and the bigness of that deal is perpetuated by moms who show up at school with treats and story time on their child's birthday, followed by said party thrown at a building full of bounce houses and ball pits. To meet my kids' happy childhood halfway, I've decided to throw a party with friends every three years until my kids are 12. After that, their friends can take over. That means four parties per child times by five children. 20 parties will be more than enough to do me in along with all the other demands of childrearing. For each non-friend-party year, we have a different tradition. The seventh birthday party is very very low key. My kid gets to pick what she/he wants for breakfast or dinner, a dessert of some sort is served, and the child goes to a week of Provo's summer day camp in June or July.

With such low standards, my children have pretty low expectations of me for their own birthdays. If they want something grander, they take matters into their own hands. Last night #4 taped several sheets of printer paper together and colored a birthday banner for herself. Today she instructed her taller siblings as to what colored streamers went where and how they should be twisted and looped.

When her sisters offered to set the table for her so she could skip that chore on her birthday, she flatly refused. Instead, she directed them in setting her birthday dinner table exactly as she wanted, complete with the name tags she had made for everyone. I'm glad she knew what she wanted and was willing to make it happen without whining for me to do it for her. I laughed when I found this note taped to the front door this afternoon:

Her instructions include a description of a present that a friend gave her yesterday. It was wrapped in a gift bag that had a picture of Garfield on it. She re-wrapped the gift yesterday so she would have something to open today.

By dinner time, when no one had come with birthday wishes, she took down the note. Fortunately, she had earlier mentioned to me that she wondered what my friend Kelly would do for her this year. (#4 calls her "Kells"!) I had forgotten that Kelly had given her anything last year, but #4 hadn't, and she fully expected Kelly and/or her youngest daughter to show up in recognition of this special day. So I called my friend to let her know #4's desire, and she didn't disappoint. They showed up with a little gift around the same time that Kent's parents and brothers came. We all had dessert and sang "Happy Birthday" and #4 was very satisfied with the day as a whole.

Last week for my birthday, I indulged my kids by getting back in bed so they could serve me breakfast. They also made me a banner, and #5 gave me some of his magical powers. I am now able to run super fast and jump really high. (He almost took those powers away when I wouldn't give him candy for a Sunday snack, but he showed some mercy and let me keep my new powers in return for a banana.)

My low expectations for birthdays made me a little uncomfortable to receive my friends' attentions, though. However, after one friend and her girls gave me handmade cards, another gave me a hug and directions to take a nap, another (who is a self-proclaimed non-cook) invited us over for homemade crepes, another mailed me a card, another left a bundle of recipes and chocolate at my door, and the Relief Society presidency brought a birthday lunch to our meeting...I came to realize that birthdays are the day we can openly express our love and admiration for our friends. In other words, I want my friends to feel loved by me on their birthdays, which helps me accept their thoughtful gifts on my day. I also appreciated the phone calls and emails from family members.

My favorite gift, however, was serendipitous. The music coordinator in our LDS ward asked me a few days in advance to play a piano piece in Sacrament Meeting. I've had a piece prepared for eight years and I've always wanted the chance to share it with my ward family. I was so glad I could play it for them on my very birthday. It's an arrangement of "I Believe in Christ", which isn't my favorite hymn, but this particular arrangement expresses the joy and conviction of my testimony that I can't communicate in words. I had prayed all week to not be undone by nerves because I wanted the beauty of the song to come across flawlessly. My prayer was answered in an unexpected way. I got through the first page with no problems, but then as the emotion of the piece swelled, my arms and then hands began shaking. I think it was due to a combination of excitement and nervousness. Either way, I barely controlled my hands and all I could play were the top and bottom notes of each three- and four-note chord. Those who had never heard the piece before got to hear the simple beauty of it, though they unknowingly missed the richness of the full chords. But the flawed performance served to keep me humble while still portraying the message of testimony in the music. I was glad for it to come across that way because I wanted the piece to be enjoyed without me being full of myself. It all made for a good day and I felt loved by my family, friends, and Heavenly Father.


VickieG said...

I want to hear your piano piece at the next family gathering that has a piano. Why didn't you share this with us sooner?

Mary said...

I'd love to play it for the family! I guess I've always practiced it with the intent that I would have something ready if I were ever asked to play in Church. (I began learning it when a friend of mine had a last-minute request to play in Sacrament Meeting, and decided I didn't want to be flustered in a similar situation.) I just never thought about playing in any other setting. Now that you bring it up, I think we should add a musical performance to our FHE schedule, or maybe make it optional for the family in charge of the songs.

Jenni said...

I hope you used your magical powers wisely! :-)

Charlotte said...

I only do parties every four years. Then I try to remember the other years in time to buy them something. I'm not a big birthday person, either. A lunch with friends and date with my husband is usually enough.