The Birthday Realisation
For many years now I’ve not been that bothered about my birthday. It’s probably a sign of getting old but, other than one or two aspects, it’s just not that big a deal. Certainly it’s hardly the same thing as when I was a kid.
As a kid, your birthday is a special event. You get spoiled rotten with presents, you see family members you may not otherwise see on most days, you get cards – some with money – from relatives you’ve never met and may never meet but your mum or dad keep them in the loop as to how you’re getting on, and you get cake. I’d say you get a party as well, but even as a kid I never had a birthday party. I don’t feel like I missed out on that either, I had a nasty habit as a kid of falling out with friends over the summer holidays and since my birthday was always at the end of those holidays I was lucky if I had any left by that point!
There’s also the perception of time that’s different as a kid. When you’re young, time seems to go slower. Your birthdays seem so far apart that when they come around you’re genuinely excited about it and you feel like you’ve been waiting an absolute age. Throw in the fact that getting a year older as a kid is a badge of honour as you get more privileges with your increasing age and it’s something worth waiting for.
Compare that with when you’re older. Time flies by. Your birthday almost sneaks up on you, it doesn’t seem that long since your last one and that was a traumatic experience as your age went up yet again. You may not feel like you’ve left behind your teens or your 20s but they’re a long and distant memory at this point. In fact, if you’re anything like me then you stop counting and when someone asks your age you have to work it out from the current year and the year you were born!
The presents you get when you’re older are rubbish as well. Kids are easy to buy for – you just buy toys. Kids love new toys and they’ll get played with almost immediately. As an adult the best I can hope for is some new gadget. It’s effectively a grown up toy, but the trouble is you’ve usually got life to go and deal with so you can’t play with it immediately. Or worse, you’ve already bought it as you work for a living and can afford to get stuff when you want it rather than waiting for your birthday. As such, presents usually end up being clothes or gift cards. Now I’ll be honest, I love a gift card if it’s a shop I use anyway, but it’s hardly the same excitement you had as a kid opening up a toy you’ve been hoping for!
So in recent years, my birthday has been a simple affair. Book a day off work – because getting a lie in on your birthday is one of the few treats you can have as an adult – open up cards with gift cards, spend the day doing not a lot and maybe go out for dinner at the end of the day to have a nice meal.
But this year was different.
I still had the day off work, but I didn’t get my lie in. No, I have a baby to deal with these days so lie ins are a thing of the past! I wasn’t even that fussed about missing out on my lie in because I was looking forward to getting the wee man up and out for a nice walk. Usually it rains on my birthday, but oddly this year it was sunny. Freezing cold right enough, but sunny nonetheless. So once he’d been fed and then immediately gone back to have a nap – ahh to be less than a year old – I caught up with a little bit of TV while I waited on him finishing his nap. After that it was off out for a long walk, with a nice coffee midway through it so he could get fed, and then back to the house to meet up with his mummy who actually did get a lie in! Yes, on my birthday, the missus got to relax!
Then came the most stressful part of the day. I had a hospital appointment which meant trying to get parked at the hospital. I was there in plenty of time and I still nearly missed my appointment thanks to the insufficient parking. I actually had a laugh when my blood pressure was off the scale and had to be redone because I would have been dead if it was accurate. It was fine of course, just a dodgy machine. Still, once that was done I met the rest of my family for another coffee (yeah, two visits to a coffee shop in the one day, I treated myself) and to pick up something we’d ordered for the wee man from another shop. Yes, my birthday and he got a present.
After that we headed home again. I spoon fed the wee man, played with him for a bit, bathed him, played with him some more and then put him to bed before settling down with the missus to watch some more Sons of Anarchy – our latest box set of choice to watch. Highly recommended by the way!
Oh yes, and we had cake. That is probably the only commonality today with my birthday as a kid. Well, it is cake!
Now, I’m sure if you’ve read all of that you’re thinking things like “did your missus do anything” or more likely “aye, big deal, you’re a dad now, what did you expect”. Which is fair enough. For a weekday my missus did very little by comparison to her normal day, and yes I did a lot of things I needed to do as a father. But that’s not the point. The point here is simple.
This was the best birthday I’ve had in years.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year it’s that life isn’t about me any more. I have a son now, it’s all about him. But getting to spend the whole day with him when I would otherwise have been at work was fantastic. The fact that my missus got a break for most of the day was actually a bonus. It meant that for a lot of the day it was just me and him. Usually the weekends are spent with the three of us doing things so I rarely get the time to spend with just him. It’s all too easy to share the jobs between us and so I don’t really get the full experience. Admittedly that’s a good way to do it most of the time! But this time it was me doing all the buggy pushing, me doing all the feeding, me doing all the bathing, and me doing all the talking and playing with him. A good bit of bonding really.
He responded to it all as well. I had more smiles and more baby talking noises from him on my birthday than probably any other day this year. He was in such a great mood, and because of that so was I. I know it’s a cliché, but there really is nothing quite like being a parent. It’s days, and the little moments in those days, like these that make you realise it. I’d love to be able to describe it to you, but I can’t. There’s plenty of other points in life where I’m happy, delighted, even ecstatic, but this is different to all of those. Parents reading this will know exactly what I mean. Non-parents may have no idea and may even think I’m talking nonsense.
If that sounds condescending or judgemental about non-parents, then I apologise. I know being a parent isn’t for everyone, and if you’ve decided that then that’s great. Knowing what you want – or what you don’t want – from life is a great place to be. I can’t say I always thought I’d be a parent after all! Which brings us to the other thing that happened for my birthday – my dad popped round for a coffee. He’s the man that for years told me all this same stuff, and how I’d understand eventually. The man I completely dismissed and told on many occasions that I wasn’t that bothered about having kids. In fact before that I told him I wasn’t that fussed about girls either – and that wasn’t me coming out of the closet, that was just me thinking I was happy on my own! So it was nice, after the day I’d just had, to be able to tell him he was absolutely spot on.
Of course, I’m sure I’ll see the whole cycle start again from the other side now that I have my own son to bring up!
This birthday wasn’t a landmark number for me. 30 has long since come and gone and 40 is still a good while away yet. But it was probably the first birthday where I’ve actually stopped and looked at the bigger picture of my life. True, I’ve probably been doing that for a long time now. Certainly ever since it was confirmed my wife was pregnant, never mind since the wee man was born. But either way this might be the first time since all those changes to my life that I’ve been able to really stop and think about what that all means. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind of learning after all! As another cliché goes, babies don’t come with a manual!
So now I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll be doing with my next birthday. More of the same as this one please! Actually, more of this without the getting older aspect would be perfect. At least I know I don’t need to wait another year to spend quality time with the wee man.