No one asked me if I would like to be born on December 19th. I suppose my parents, also, had little say in the matter. It’s no one’s fault, then. But it does come with its challenges.
My mother tells the story of how, as a young child, I ardently pointed out to my father that:
just because I was the youngest of seven children and
just because it came less than a week before Christmas
DID NOT mean that my birthday was less important.
I listen to the tale and cringe, wondering why Dad bore the brunt of my tantrum. I hope there was some conversational context to my outburst, rather than merely a display of self-centered immaturity.
And why did I feel so passionately about being over-shone, on occasion, by the holidays? Maybe I was having a bad year.
Whatever the reasons, the story does show that:
I felt forgotten at times. Even unseen.
I don’t believe I am alone in this.
I wonder if we all feel it sometimes – this being unseen, overlooked – whether we’re the oldest in the family, or wedged into the middle, or the saucy ham that popped out last; or whether we’re the mother, the father, the grandmother, the grandmother, the single adult, the elderly or the bed-ridden sick.
I believe we all hold a universal question in each of our hearts:
“Does anyone see me?”
Because of this, as I raise my own children, I want each of them to undoubtedly know:
I see them.
Paul Daugherty says of his triumphant daughter in his book An Uncomplicated Life:
“She has affected everyone who has taken the time to see her. Seeing isn’t easy. It requires participation. It implies understanding. ‘Do not judge me on what I look like. See me for who I am.’”
Yes! I cheer.
This is my goal, my dream, and my purpose as a mother, friend, wife, daughter, sister, auntie, etc. Please, Lord, may I learn to see!
This is a lovely goal but it sometimes gets me into, well, trouble.
January 8th was Thales’s birthday.
The first week of January is, to put it mildly, a trying time.
The whole family is still coming down from a sugar-rush, sleep-deprived, holiday frenzy – and somehow, I have unwittingly transformed my son’s birthday into a birth-WEEK.
MONDAY (January 7) …
Thales agonizes over whether he will pick a friend-party birthday this year, or a family-restaurant-supper celebration.
I agonize, waiting for him to decide. What if he regrets his choice? Maybe I shouldn’t have made him pick between the two.
I also worry about the gift I bought. It’s so soon after Christmas. After the thrill of opening present after present, will he like this one?
In an “aha!” moment, I decide to make a list of my son’s attributes and lovingly decorate the outside of his gift. This way, if he isn’t excited about what’s inside the box, he will at least get the message that I love him while he opens it:
TUESDAY (January 8 – the BIG DAY) …
Thales sweetly asks for pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast. This is doable, although I much prefer to make the kids fend for themselves with cereal or toast on a weekday. Why would I want to cook at 7AM when I could drink steamy coffee in my housecoat until the last moment and then drop them off at school?
But it’s his birthday. I willingly cook, and we eat pancakes and eggs dipped in syrup.
“What kind of cake would you like?” I ask.
“The one with the whipped cream and strawberries on top that Grandma Sal serves.”
After dropping the boys off at school, Julie and I brave a howling wind and frigid, blowing snow to purchase strawberry deliciousness for dessert.
It’s his birthday and cake will be eaten.
“Do you want a party, or to go out for supper as a family tonight?” I ask.
“I want to go bowling!”
Huh. Interesting twist of events. All day, I try to reserve a glow-bowling lane for the family. I can’t seem to get through to the bowling alley.
But it’s his birthday. Someway, somehow, we will bowl.
“What do you want for supper, then?” I ask.
“Pizza! With mushrooms on it!”
Back to the store! Birthday pizza will be had.
“What should we do after supper?” (I have finally reached the bowling alley. They are booked for the night.)
“Watch a movie!”
His birthday, his pick. Our family of five snuggles in front of the big screen in our basement. We watch super-intelligent animals exact Furry Vengeance on an unsuspecting property developer.
WEDNESDAY (January 9) …
The festivities continue.
I drive Thales to a relaxing massage appointment in the morning. Julie and I work on reading homework on the floor and chat with the massage therapist for 45 minutes.
Afterward, we stop at a café and share a cinnamon bun while we wait for his next appointment – the haircut he’s requested for the last six months.
Then, back home to chill-out because I’m also allowing him to skip school today.
THURSDAY (January 10 — the CATCH-UP DAY) …
I am desperately trying to catch up on daily life: laundry, dishes, groceries, writing, baking, etc.
FRIDAY (January 11 – the LAST DAY) …
We have a bowling lane reserved for 7pm to top off the birthday celebration week.
And on the 6th day, Sara rested from all the work that she had done.
Could it be that this week has become one of those overcompensating-for-a-childhood-memory parenting moments?
I admit that, altogether, it seems a little over-the-top. Possibly an excessive effort to show love. But here’s the thing:
if I err, may I err on the side of extravagantly ridiculous love.
What about you? Are you feeling overlooked today? Unseen by those around you? Do you feel insignificant?
If yes, I encourage you to remember:
our Heavenly Father is an
loving parent who
May you believe this truth, and allow God’s attentive, compassionate, all-consuming love to fill your heart today.
(You can read about how I once felt lost, too. But God saw me and wooed me. Check it out, here.)
What is your favorite birthday memory? We’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below.
Sara Jane Kehler