Friday, November 9, 2012

Birthday ups and downs

There are so many great things about being a mother. My favorite is knowing that there is a little person out there that loves you unconditionally. Whenever you see him, you are instantly in a better mood (unless he is screaming uncontrollably, then you just want to cry with him). My least favorite part of being a mother is the dreaded planning and implementing of a birthday party. Talk about horrible. Now granted there are some great memories that come from birthdays, such as balloons, cake, family, and friends. There are some aspects of a birthday party that are not so great, and it was not until I became a mother that I realized this.

When E turned one, I pictured a perfect, quiet day at the house with family and friends. I imagined E would be well rested all day long, never cry, and be very enthusiastic about his cake and balloons. This did not come to pass however. E woke up cranky and stayed that way most of the day. He did not like the fact that I wanted him to sit in his highchair to eat cake and did nothing but cry while we sang him “Happy Birthday.” He then did not want to eat any of his smash cake that I spent so much time preparing for him. I could not believe that he did not want full access to a piece of cake. Again, my expectations must have been too high since I pictured him face first in his cake with blue icing all over his face. Instead I have forever pictures of him crying with mommy trying to desperately get him to eat some cake.

Year two, I imagined, had to be way better than E’s first birthday. After all, now he was running around and had a better sleep schedule down. I spent weeks organizing his second birthday at a local park. The theme that year was Elmo, my son’s favorite character at the time. I went all out with the Elmo cake, Elmo centerpieces, Elmo plates and cups, everything was Elmo. I even found this really large Elmo balloon that I thought would be perfect. On E’s birthday, my husband and I went to the store to buy the Elmo balloon along with about a dozen other red balloons. I was so excited to see E’s expression when he would come across this gigantic helium filled replica of his favorite red creature.

I went to go put some of E’s decorations down on the picnic table while my husband was in charge of the balloons. All my husband had to do was to take the balloons over to the picnic table and tie them to the centerpieces that were, of course, Elmo themed. I proceeded to go back to the car to get more party supplies. When I turned around, I remember seeing my husband looking up and Elmo flying towards the clouds. I could not believe it! Elmo was gone and all I had left was a flabbergasted husband. It turns out that my aunt had come just in time to film the entire event so now I have forever video footage of the flying Elmo and the upset Mama. That year’s cake went about the same as the first year. E wanted to play on the slide not blow out candles on the cake. He ended up crying the entire way through “Happy Birthday” again and was not a happy camper until he was let free to go run back to the playground.

This year, for E’s third birthday, I wanted to expand our birthday horizons and let someone else take it over. Thus enters a favorite childhood place that includes token rides, a giant mouse, and ticket prizes. The theme for this year was Buzz Lightyear, E’s new favorite character. I was very enthusiastic when E walked in and immediately starting to smile and try to get on every ride that was available. E was so excited to be there! He was smiles all day long… that is until the ticket catcher. I am not sure why anyone would think it is a great idea to lock a little boy into a clear plastic tube that blows air all around you, expecting you to catch tickets as they whiz past. My husband, much to his delight, volunteered to go into the giant, plastic tube with my son. E was okay until the air started up. Immediately, his look of confusion turned into one of horror as he tried to make his way out of the plastic container. My husband didn’t seem to notice. His focus was on catching as many tickets as possible by opening up his shirt and pushing the tickets underneath. E, on the other hand, was looking at me with a giant frown on his face, while trying to determine why this seemed like a good idea to begin with.

My favorite part of E’s third birthday however, had to be the cake. For the first time since he had been having birthdays, E wanted to get into the cake as soon as he saw it. Of course, the giant Buzz Lightyear character on the cake seemed to help. E also has learned since his last birthday party, how to blow out birthday candles. He managed to spit on most of the cake, but his look of pride when he was able to blow out all three candles was a memorable moment. It ended up that no disasters occurred that day, which makes me optimistic about future birthdays. E had a not-so-great experience with the giant mouse. He would meekly wave at the mouse when he saw it, but no one could get him to actually sit on the mouse’s lap without having to endure kicking and screaming. E interacted the same way with the Easter Bunny, which is something I attribute to just a natural fear of enormous stuffed animals.

E’s birthdays have had their ups and downs. I think the one thing that I need to remember from them is that it is important to cherish your time with your children while they are still small enough to let you hug them without pushing you away. I have memories that will last me forever, and a happy little guy to go with it. My definition of motherhood is truly something that changes every day. Each day, I encounter more reasons why I love my son as much as I do. The craziness of E’s birthdays just adds to the reasons that make his personality so unique and why he is my sweetheart.

What do you try to remember when birthdays come around?

Jennifer Weber, RNC-NIC, MSN, is the Clinical Education Specialist for the NICU, Newborn Nursery and Pediatrics unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano.

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