A short post on my birthday

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.

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12 thoughts on “A short post on my birthday

  1. Hey Kevin, Truth is: most of it ain’t grant, some of it is way better, some of is it best not to speak of, but overall…..well…we’ll take it and be glad of it. Remember as best you can each of these moments. So good you are documenting them. Happy birthday. I always enjoy hearing your thoughts.
    Sandi

  2. Your day seems like it was quietly luminous (or is it numinous?).
    It’s weird to be a grown-up and not get toys, not have your age + 1 guests coming over for cake and treat bags –but it’s better, isn’t it? To have a day that is layered in memory like this? Thanks for pointing it out. And happy birthday, of course.

  3. Kevin,

    Your posts are alternately thought provoking, poignant, and laugh out loud funny because the details are so honest and spot on. This simple entry had so much–the numbing boredom of hanging out on the floor with infants and toddlers and the loving insight that the best way to nurture them is often to patiently hang out with them on the floor while they are doing what makes them happy even while you are eager to work on your chore list. And I am happy to say it had me laughing out loud not once, not twice, but three times!

    Happy Birthday and for the sake of your lucky family, many happy returns!

  4. Happy birthday!

    I recently discovered your blog, and am enjoying reading through your posts. The recent post on “what’s our new American dream?” especially really resonated with me, and is still churning through my head. We are almost exactly the same age (my 31st is coming up soon), and my son is about the age of your younger son. Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful and honest writing.

    • Hi Allison. So very nice to ‘meet’ you! And thanks so much for finding your way over to my blog. If any future posts grab your interest, please leave a note. I always love to swap perspectives with other parents at similar places in life.

  5. HI, Kevin,
    Happy happy Birthday to one of my favorite young men. You are doing a great job, and the world is benefiting from your insights, even if you make it up as you go along. We all had to do that. Us Mainers hold you in our hearts and wish you all the greatest and all the pleasure in the small things. It’s good that you are realizing that they are so important.

    Much love,
    Clarissa

  6. Kevin, I hope you always remember your 31st–an unusual sort of birthday:
    a day of little moments, good humor, and the daily challenges and pleasures of
    a remarkable family man.

  7. Pingback: Kevin Hartnett: What Would an Extra $50,000 a Year Mean for How my Kids Grow Up?

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