Today is my 31st birthday, though it hasn’t included any of the usual festivities. Caroline has been in Vancouver for a research meeting since Friday morning and won’t be back until late tonight. Jay, Wally, and I have managed pretty well on our own. They haven’t cut me any slack but there have been no hammer blows, either.
My first rule for spending long periods of time with the boys is: let happy kids keep doing whatever it is that’s making them happy. In practice this meant that I spent twenty minutes this morning sitting on the bathroom floor watching Wally play with the shower curtain (while Jay did idled the time in his booster with his bowl of oatmeal). Part of me was eager to get on with our morning errands but I reminded myself, “The errands can wait; better to take an easy twenty minutes now than to fight through a hard twenty minutes later on.”
I’d share the details of the errands but typing them out would only double down on just how un-celebratory they were. After completing them my plan had been to drive to Burns Park to take advantage of the sunshine and spend an hour outside before lunch. But Wally fell asleep in the car on the way home; rather than roust him so that his brother could play on the playground, we parked in a sunny spot of our driveway and I let him nap while Jay splashed in the puddle-cum-mud-hole at the end of our driveway and kicked a soccer ball with the amazingly patient and kind nine-year-old girl who lives next door.
(To further feather this girl’s cap, it should be noted that later in the day she came by and delivered two boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mints that I’d ordered back in December and which definitely counted as the best birthday surprise of the day.)
Following Wally’s nap we went inside for a long lunch and then an even longer time lying on the floor doing who-even-remembers-what in the playroom. All I can tell you is the boys were happy and that maybe for the first time ever, Wally beat up Jay. (The two of them were lying in the pack-’n-play and Wally started to claw amiably at Jay’s face. Jay squealed to be rescued. I picked him up and told him that he did a good job not pushing his brother back, but inside a little part of me was embarrassed for him.)
Overall I relied on inertia as much as I could to through the day. It occurred to me that this is opposite the way birthdays are usually paced. Birthdays tend to be more planned and deliberate than most days of the year and they carry the expectation that you’ll enjoy them. I’m happy to enjoy my birthday, of course, but as I wrote in June, a few days after Wally was born, “I’m not very comfortable with experiences that come loaded with the expectation that you’ll feel any certain way in response to them.” When my sister called this afternoon and asked if I was having a fun day, I was relieved to be able to say that fun, in the sense of steak dinners and vodka shots, had never really been on the table.
So here we are now. It’s 8:15pm. Both boys have been asleep for almost an hour already (I packed them off to bed early). Caroline is due home in about six hours. On the table in front of me there’s an empty glass of Zinfandel and a mug of coffee ice cream topped with crumbled Girl Scout cookies.
I wouldn’t call it a grand birthday, but I’m happy to call it mine.