My daughter was lucky. She turned 15 on March 3rd, before our concern for COVID-19 hit. My sons were not quite as lucky, they both had birthdays that will go down in history. Their birthdays were April 1st and April 6th. Quarantine birthdays. It’s crazy how birthdays only one month apart can feel like a completely different lifetime.
For my daughter’s birthday we were able to sneak away for the day for some mother-daughter time. We went to Caribou first, which is always a great way to start the day. Then we went to the mall and just spent hours leisurely walking from store to store, enjoying our time together. We arrived when the mall opened in the morning and the day flew by quickly. When we realized it was already late afternoon we made our way to a small Russian restaurant.
My daughter was adopted from Russia and chose to celebrate her birthday with Russian food, which I thought was a great idea. We enjoyed being adventurous and trying all sorts of new foods. We had an amazing day together, just the two of us enjoying some much needed time girl time and getting out of the house.
Fast forward from the beginning of March to the beginning of April. These next two birthdays for my sons felt like no other. They had no choice about inviting friends, dining out, or going to fun places. We have been on quarantine for three weeks now and we are all craving a little more excitement, but we decided to go ahead and celebrate the quarantine birthdays anyway.
It is really hard to let go of ideas about what a birthday party should look like. We want our kids to be happy and have a party they will always remember. We want smiley pictures for their scrapbook. We want them to be able to look back and have fond memories when they are older. We want them to feel special and loved.
It’s funny how parents get caught up in their own stories. Some have memories of their childhood birthdays and want to make sure their children’s birthdays are just as special. Some don’t have the fond memories, so they want to do everything possible to make sure their children’s birthdays are better than theirs were. Either way, we usually think we have the child’s best interest in mind.
Here’s the thing, I don’t think kids actually care so much about all the hoopla. Kids just want us to be there for them. They want us to be completely present with them. This becomes almost impossible to do while concentrating on all the usual birthday hoopla. Parents with the best intentions end up being the ones who miss out because they are so distracted. When this happens, kids lose too. They lose their parents presence.
We have to get these crazy ideals out of our heads. My husband and I both risked our lives going to stores to get items we thought we MUST have for a birthday party. I went to Walmart first, sanitized my cart, then proceeded to walk through the isles as people passed me with their facemasks on. This was my first time out in a few weeks, so I didn’t even know what to expect. It never even dawned on me to wear a mask grocery shopping, but next time I will. As I found myself holding my breath in the store I suddenly felt like germs were everywhere. I tried not to breathe anything in. All this for a birthday cake.
I thought to myself, “This is crazy! What am I even doing here? What is more important healthy parents or a birthday cake?” Oh, the stories we have in our heads about the way things need to be. I could have turned around and walked out, but I didn’t. I risked my life so my children would have cake for their birthdays.
Next on my agenda was balloons, plastic tablecloths, birthday napkins and paper plates. So instead of going home I risked my life even further by going to the Dollar Store. What is a birthday party without decorations? Again, in the big picture, would my kids rather have healthy parents or balloons and partyware? We really need to rethink these stories. My husband was just as bad. His love language is gifts so he went to the local bike store to purchase a bike for my five-year old. The story in his head is that his child will not feel special without an amazing gift. All this shopping right in the midst of a pandemic. Kind of crazy!
We could have stopped there, but what is a party without grandparents? My parents have done a great job of following the quarantine rules up until this point. They are in their late 70’s. We invited them over because that’s what we usually do. We planned for everyone to stay outside and tried to stay 6-feet apart at all times, but there were a few times we broke the 6-foot rule by mistake. I hope a few careless moments don’t get my parents sick. What is more important- grandparents at your party or healthy grandparents? We are such creatures of habit and my parents felt they needed to be here in real time. That’s how grandparents show their love.
I hope you learn from the mistakes we made. If you are a parent and your child has an upcoming birthday go ahead and celebrate. It doesn’t have to look like all of their other birthdays. Keep it as simple as possible this year. Your number one priority right now is safety for yourself and your family. What your child needs most this year is healthy parents and a healthy family.
A healthy family is so much more important than presents and cake. Your child wouldn’t trade you for anything in the world. Your child just wants to be seen by you and have you spend time with them in their world. Relax about all the party details and spend that time connecting with your child instead. I guarantee it will make your child feel happy and special, even without all the hoopla.
Do Better & Shine