Another Year Gone By: Making My Birthday Special

Tomorrow is my birthday.  Since as far back as I can remember, I have always looked forward to my birthday with giddy anticipation.  There is something magical about the day you were born.  To you, the world did not exist until you got here and made it great.  When I was a teenager, my grandmother confided in me that, once you had children, your birthday was just another day that laundry had to be done, lunches had to be made, etc.  I remember looking at her, horrified, that she would say such a thing.  How could my birthday not be special???  Well, Grandma, you were right.  The older I’ve gotten, the less “special” my day has become.  I mean, I still get to spend it with my family, which is great.  But somehow it’s not the same.  No one will make me a special breakfast of pancakes with whipped cream and put a candle in it for me.  No one will spend weeks planning the perfect themed birthday party for me, complete with color coordinated desserts and decor in the venue.  
 
But the truth is, I’ve never had a birthday like that.  Yet my birthdays have always felt special to me because I’ve always had what I wanted and needed.  The same holds true this year – I have amazing children and family who are all well and spend time with me; though Jon is no longer my partner in life on earth, I have love and memories of him locked in my heart forever, never to be removed; I have found a loving partner in Danny, who puts up with me and all my quirks; I have a roof over my head, food in my refrigerator, clothes and shoes in my closet.  I don’t really want or need anything else.  
 
So I decided that this year, I wanted to do something a little different for my birthday.  What that was, however, was a little unclear.  Then I saw a post on Facebook about a young man named Zach Sobiech.  A media company (Soul Pancake) filmed a documentary about Zach and his life for their documentary series, “My Last Days.”   Zach had cancer and did not have much time left on earth.  You can see Soul Pancake’s video about Zach here. I was so moved by this 17 year old boy, who sadly lost his battle with cancer just 4 days ago.  He was quite inspirational, saying things like, “You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.”  His older sister commented that Zach taught her that “things are okay when you believe in something greater than yourself in this world.”  But Zach said something that really touched me.  He said, “What makes you happy is seeing someone else smile because you put it there.  That’s what’s awesome about, like, living in this world is that you can help people.”  That really resonated with me.  After I stopped crying, I realized that this would be what I would for my birthday.  Instead of trying to decide on something that I wanted to receive for my birthday, I would decide on something that I would GIVE for my birthday, something that would help people.  Then I stumbled on a pin on Pinterest that was linked to a website called, “The Birthday Project.”  There was my answer.  Robyn, a young mom, started the site after a huge response to her blog post about how she celebrated her 38th birthday by completing 38 “Random Acts of Kindness” (RAOK).  So this year, I will be doing the same thing.  In celebration of the day I was born, 42 years (and one day) ago, I will complete 42 RAOK.  I have compiled a list, just as Robyn did, but am hopeful that opportunities will present themselves to me.  Some acts will be for complete strangers, while others will be for people who I know and love.  When I complete my 42 RAOK, I will post a complete list of all that I did and what the experience was like.  In the meantime, I strongly suggest that you watch Soul Pancake’s video about Zach (link above) and also watch his music video, “Clouds.”  I hope that both will change your life, as they have changed mine.

What I Want For Mother’s Day

Creative Mother’s Day breakfast
I’ve seen a lot of links on Facebook lately to blogs that are poking fun at what mother’s do and what us moms really want for Mother’s Day this year.  Things like getting the kids out of our hair, wanting time alone with our girlfriends,  “good jewelry,” etc.  And while these blogs, I hope, were written to be comical and are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I thought I would write something about what being a mom really means to me.


Almost 17 years ago, my life was changed on a really hot day in June when I gave birth to my first baby, a girl.  One day my life was just as I expected it, and the next day it was nothing I even recognized, as a 7 pound 2 ounce little peanut was suddenly in control of all I did, said, and thought.  She also inexplicably had control of my heart.  She was the one person in the world who could call me that special word that we wait with baited breath for our kids to say.  Mama.  Suddenly I lived and breathed for Allie. 

My girls
Three days postpartum and I experienced the traditional depression that many moms go through from the dramatic drop in hormone levels after giving birth.  My brother will tell you how he walked into my kitchen, finding me in tears, thinking someone had died.  When he asked me what was wrong, I replied, “What made me think I could do this???”  Tears streamed down my face.  The weight of my responsibility to this tiny, helpless life had suddenly hit me.  I had to do it all – with the help of her father, of course.  But there would be no going in late, no leaving early, or calling in sick.  It was on me.  24/7.  The thought of that was overwhelming.  Yet I persevered.  I developed a rhythm as a mother that was unique to me and my daughter.  And then a subsequent daughter, Sam.  And then ten years later, another little girl, Lily.

The weight of my responsibility has never left me.  It just doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming any more.  Maybe it’s because I’m looking at preschools for my baby and colleges for my oldest all at the same time, but this year feels different.  I look at Allie and see such a beautiful, mature young woman.  She has it way more together than I ever did in high school.  She is a volunteer tutor with the NY Public Library, a peer tutor in her school, a private tutor in math and science of various grade levels, a stellar student (how does one acquire an average above 100?), a caring friend to many, and a loving girlfriend to one very lucky young man.  I look at Sam and see another beautiful, mature young woman.  An excellent student, an amazing athlete – playing on two different soccer teams and a softball team, and a caring friend.  And then Lily, my baby, who is so full of potential, who already has a well-developed sense of humor, and an incredibly quirky personality.  These lives were entrusted to me to help make our world a better place.  That’s a job a take very seriously.

Lily & I enjoying a special moment
So while many moms complain about how tiresome and overwhelming their children are, I’m going to say something different.  I relish the time I have spent wiping asses and noses, nursing all hours of the day and night, reading books (over and over and over again), playing with trains, staying up all night with a crying baby, holding hands extra tightly on the first day of school, providing comfort when their hearts were broken.  These moments are the foundation of my motherhood.  They have built love, trust, and respect among us.  Now stop rolling your eyes.  I am no Carol Brady or June Cleaver.  I have my moments, when I don’t think I can take another moment of whining or crying, when I just want to go out with the girls and drink and let my hair down, or even just go to the bathroom, by myself, with the door closed.  I’m human.  I’m imperfect by definition.  But the truth is, I find time to hang out with my friends.  I manage to get a manicure and pedicure by myself when I can.  I order in meals when I don’t feel like cooking.  I make time, when it’s feasible, to do all of those things.  So on Mother’s Day I don’t want to forget all that made me the mother that I am.  I want to remember it.  I want to look at pictures of my big girls as babies and cry a happy cry about how much I miss that time.  I want sappy cards with notes written in them about how loved and appreciated I am and how inspiring I’ve been.  I want them all around me, even if they do sit on the bed only half looking and listening to me because they are also checking twitter and texting on their smart phones, or watching Umi Zoomi play on the television in the background.  They are the reason I am a mother, my reason for going on in times of great heartache and despair.  They make my future worth living for.  

A past Mother’s Day
gift from Sam
This year from Lily
I hope to unwrap several macaroni necklaces, handprint poems, potted plants that I will try desperately but fail miserably in keeping alive, and homemade cards.  I hope to eat a mediocre breakfast in bed, that will surely be served lukewarm at best.  These will be the greatest gifts I ever receive and the most filling meal I will ever consume.  So keep your Tiffany jewelry, and girls brunch mimosas, and “stay away from me” coupons.  I’m a mom.  I have three amazing kids who have made me the mom that I am today.  Why would I want to celebrate that without them???