Childfree Birthday Blues
Friends, I turned 29 yesterday for the fourth consecutive year in a row. And for the first time since, well, birth – I wasn’t really in the mood to celebrate. For no particular reason – nothing had gone wrong, I wasn’t bemoaning the fact that I was sliding further into my thirties, no one important forgot the occasion. In fact, everyone went above and beyond for what I would consider a relatively benign aging milestone.
Drew surprised me on Friday night with a little last-minute jaunt down to Hermosa for the 10 Comics for $10 with a few friends. He organized a Saturday dinner out, followed by drinks at the local nautically-themed watering hole. He made a double-decker chocolate cake from SCRATCH that experienced some sort of tectonic shift in the car on the way to the restaurant, but tasted delicious nonetheless. He got me thoughtful gifts, only 50% of which I intend to return (a new record in our house). BOTH my brothers remembered to call. My parents sent a card full of glitter, cats and money – my three favorite things. Jacques and Olivia got their furry butts up at 4:45 am to make me breakfast. Wait, maybe that was the other way around…
Even some of my friends with kids battled Santa Monica traffic to make it out to dinner, though little Sienna couldn’t possibly have been more bored.
As you can see, it certainly wasn’t for lack of anyone else’s trying that I didn’t have an exhilarating birthday. So what’s up? Maybe I’m just worn out. Admittedly, the last few birthdays have been over the top. Last year, I dragged everyone out for a heavy Indian meal and then made them. For my 30th, I made Drew (affectionately known thereafter as Jeeves) rent a van to cart us from a Moroccan dinner to a karaoke bar. I forced the boys to belly-dance.
And I was totally jazzed to do it all. It would stand to reason that it’s difficult to sustain that kind of frenzied excitement, year after year. But up until last week, I had. The arrival of my birthday was a much-anticipated event – Drew called it my birthmonth in response to how long I dragged out the festivities. I snapped the old-school equivalent of a roll of film at each, but the only photo I took this past weekend was the fuzzy baby photo above. So where’d my birthday zest go?
Is it any coincidence that the time at which your birthday loses its luster coincides with the age at which most people are now having babies? Are we trying to re-capture the excitement of our youth through the eyes of our kids? A Spiderman cake and a bowling alley party is about all it takes to send a youngster into the clutches of ecstasy. I mean, look how thrilled I am just to be watching my brother open a gift:
I imagine my parents got a pretty big kick out of it too. So there’s something tempting about letting your own birthday slide into the sunset in favor of planning celebrations for someone else who’ll be over the moon about it. Put simply, it takes some of the pressure off generating your own zeal.
But the idea of living vicariously through kids in any way has always made me a little wary. Does it mean we’re not capable of sustaining enthusiasm for our own life events beyond our twenties? Are we taking the easy way out of enjoying our own lives by having kids, or are we simply moving on something new? Are we giving up on ourselves or just giving our all for someone else (or are those the same thing)?
Ideally, if we become parents, we should be doing both. Unfortunately, I think it becomes all too easy to let your own grand plans, desires and dreams fall by the wayside. As well as your spouse’s. Luckily, Drew’s needs often mirror those of a child’s. For the past five years, he has been unwavering in his birthday demands: pizza and a pool party. Now if he ever wants to move it to Chuck E. Cheese, we’ll have to have some words.