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In Support of Birthdays

Yes, you read that right.

Despite the associated anxiety that “Ugh! I’m getting old!” I’ve decided I’m in favor of birthdays. Not only am I in favor of them, I think we should give them more weight … particularly over other certain holidays.

This post lining up with Mother’s Day is no coincidence.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mom. She beats herself up over perceived shortcomings (gee, wonder where I got that from), when in reality she’s done a great job raising the three of us.

I likewise respect mothers everywhere. It’s hard work. Infinitely rewarding, yet often thankless. My metaphorical hat is off to you all.

And yet, I have a problem with Mother’s Day.

If you know me, you probably know I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day, either. Could this simply be bitterness at work? Perhaps. (Okay, somewhat likely, in part.) But I do have more behind it than that. It could be a matter of over-thinking, but when has that ever stopped me?

You see, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day—among others—have something in common. They ask us to celebrate a singular aspect of you-ness as though it can be separated from all the rest of the you-ness.

My mother is a mother, yes. She’s also a singer, a gardener, a pianist, a teacher, a genealogist, and a reader. She enjoys movies and games and puzzles. She loves animals. She hates balloons because she hates them popping.

Why single out one label over the others? Same goes for celebrating the fact that two people are each other’s romantic partner. Aren’t they more than that?

I like the idea of celebrating the whole person, for everything they are.

Thus, birthdays.

A day not for celebrating labels, but to celebrate a person’s very existence. Where it doesn’t matter what you aren’t, because the day is about what you are. Everyone has a birthday. No one has to be left out. Even if odd circumstances mean we don’t know the exact date, one can be declared and accepted. The specific day doesn’t matter, because it’s the symbol that’s important.

It’s your day to be appreciated for all you are.

No guilt trips or feelings of inadequacy necessary.

Just a thought.

Speak up:


A Birthday Resolution

No, it’s not my birthday. That was last month. Did you miss it? That’s okay. I really don’t mind.

Fact is, it’s been years since I made a big deal of my birthday. I can’t remember the last time it was a big deal. Well, three years ago I brought an amazing friend with me on a birthday visit to my family. She made cakes, and the experience was pretty memorable.

Cake with Gaping Flesh Wound

But really, we could have—and probably would have—done it without it being my birthday.

I’m not so different from a lot of other people. Birthdays remind me that I’m getting older. Then I delve into thoughts of, “Am I where I thought I’d be or wanted to be by this age?” In some ways, no. Cue disappointment, depression, and general malaise. In other ways, I’ve done some very positive things I never imagined five years ago.

Still. Birthdays. Meh.

At least, that’s how I felt until something made me think about it the other night.

I have pretty awesome students. You might have heard me mention it before. Even the ones who drive me bonkers find ways to make me glad I work with them now and then. Earlier this week, I attended an award ceremony for top seniors around the city, including one of my students, whom I’d nominated.

I’ve taught this student for the past five years, from Algebra 1 all the way to Calculus. I’ve chatted with her mom several times, and did again this particular night. This student has a few health issues, no surprise there, but her mom mentioned something I didn’t know before.

When she was born, no one expected her to make it. They came in and told her mom—a first-time mother—that her baby would not make it through the night.

As her mom says now, though, her daughter is a regular donkey with the stubbornness. And here we are, eighteen years later. Eighteen years longer than the doctors expected. Alive and lively.

I’m not going to gripe about my birthdays and getting older anymore.

Happy Birthday, Paige!

Speak up: