A couple of Wednesdays back I was forty. Although lots of nice things had been prepared to celebrate over the coming couple of weeks, on that particular day I was at work as normal plus I had an important meeting in the evening about something which I knew would be quite hard. In the morning, I came downstairs where Louise was already and she gave me a hug and said ‘happy birthday’. Within a minute Holly was down as well. She stared at me and barked “I’m dizzy”. “…. and a good morning to you!” I said, “do you have anything else to say?”. “Like what?” said Holly, “like happy birthday?” I ventured. “But it’s not my birthday!” responded Holly, completely missing the point.
Of course I left the conversation there. Holly had been told many times that it was my birthday and she had even made me a lovely a card. However, for whatever reason that morning, she could not venture outside of herself (who is good that early in the morning?). It made me feel a bit sad. I found myself saying, surely it wasn’t that hard to remember? Surely today doesn’t have to be entirely about you Holly? Surely I get today to be about me?
I know all of this is irrational. Holly did not mean anything by any of it but I was surprised by how I thought of it through the day. I felt unappreciated, forgotten and well, just not special to Holly. Somehow I had convinced myself that I deserved the day off from something. What though? Selfishness, lack of empathy, a day off of fulfilling someone’s needs without getting anything in return?
I realised that there is a small portion of myself that feels that what Holly does she does deliberately. Like there is a set of decisions that she makes to sound selfish, or a focus on making sure she gets something before everyone else. In turn, my mind assumed that I would be allowed the day off from this because fair is, after all, fair.
In the end Holly was OK around the birthday. She struggled to see me open presents because she didn’t have any to open. She couldn’t find it in her to celebrate with me that easily but none of it was deliberate. It is, and was, just her figuring out how to be in the world and how families do stuff like this. For me, I had to take a breath and remember that our kids don’t always act this way deliberately, sometimes they just don’t get it and need to be walked along that path.
As I start to live out my fortieth year patience is still my biggest challenge and a need to be realistic in my expectations. Holly is not trying to hurt anyone, she just doesn’t get some stuff. I have to say at forty, I don’t think I’m that far in front!