Tis birthaversary day season around here – that means in a 4 week period my husband and I celebrate our birthdays, our anniversary, and both Mother’s and Father’s day.
My birthday kicks off this festive time, which is great, because it allows me the privilege of seeing what my husband gets for me and choosing precisely how I want to reciprocate. I can counter his gift with something similar in price and sentiment, or I can up the ante, buy him something super awesome, thereby winning the gift exchange and garnering myself a year’s worth of sweet anticipation as to how he will try to outdo me next year. (Where others see generosity and love I see competition – I am in it to win it, whatever ‘it’ may be.)
My kids sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me at breakfast. My 3-year-old looked around and asked, ‘Why aren’t we having cake?’ I tried to explain that it was kind of lame to spend one’s own birthday making one’s own birthday cake. This answer was disappointing to him, as it left us cakeless. Frankly, I was disappointed too. And I realized that it is even lamer to be both cakeless and disappointed on the anniversary of one’s birth, so after school I picked up the kids for a surprise trip to the ice cream store.
Over milkshakes I enlisted them in my plot to win the battle of the birthdays. My husband would likely give me a gift later that evening, and I wanted to be ready to proceed immediately. ‘What should we get Daddy for his birthday next week?’
3 nods soberly, as if he had been mulling over this exact question during rest time and at the water-table. ‘We should get him a fire truck’.
‘Hmm, interesting. But don’t we already have a bunch of fire trucks at home?’
‘Not a toy fire truck, a real one!’
‘Oh – and um, what do you think Daddy would do with a real fire truck?’
A dreamy look settles over his chocolaty face ‘he would drive it…’ and then he is lost in a reverie where his father is tearing through the town on a shiny red engine, 3 at his side blasting the siren, they are off to save the day….
Ever practical, 5 chimes in, ‘We can’t buy a fire truck for Daddy. The siren would wake up the neighbors!’ He’s right. I hadn’t even considered that. I need to work on my neighborliness.
8 rolls his eyes knowingly, ‘Guys, the reason we can’t buy a fire truck is that it wouldn’t fit in the garage!’ That kid sure is smart. And here I had been focused on the prohibitive $300,000 price tag.
I look at my daughter for some feminine input, but she has taken advantage of 3’s daydreaming and stolen his milkshake. Tears of pride well up in my eyes.
‘Ok, a fire truck is one good idea, any others?’
5 proposes a surprise party. ‘Let’s invite all of Daddy’s friends to come over while he’s still at work. Mommy, you will grill lots and lots of hamburgers and make a lot of desserts. We will all yell ‘Surprise’!’
The boys like this idea (and my daughter continues to like her brother’s milkshake), which is unfortunate because I was really hoping to order something on Amazon as opposed to spending days baking and preparing. Hey, it’s the ‘thought’ and not the ‘hours spent in the kitchen’ that count.
At this point our milkshakes are making that slurpy you’ve-reached-the-bottom-but-can’t-yet-admit-it sound, and we all stare sadly into our empty cups.
‘What if on Daddy’s birthday we all take him out for ice cream?’ I suggest.
It may not up the ante, but it’s cheap and easy, and if it turns out he bought me something nice and I lose this year’s gift exchange, I will at least have ice cream in which to drown my sorrows.
Three boys cheer their approval. I check with my daughter to ensure the decision is unanimous, but she is lost in her own reverie about the promise of milkshakes to come.