A few months ago G. realized he'd be on a business trip over my birthday, accompanied by Maddy who was going along as an early birthday gift of her own to tour some universities and visit friends. He offered to try to juggle it around better to be home but I shrugged it off. "Nah, we'll just do it another day instead," I said. "No big deal." And I really meant it at the time, too. After all, I'm a big girl, a grown woman, right?
Sadly I forgot to inform my inner 10-year-old about my mature response. That Annie was raised in a celebrating household, conditioned to anticipate birthdays and expect kind of a big deal. She had great expectations, that birthday girl.
October 15 rolled around. Poor Sam. Suffice it to say that 15-year-old sons (no matter how kind and great they really are--and he is) are not really equipped to carry the burden of their mothers' unspoken birthday expectations on their shoulders. To his credit, he remembered it was my birthday a couple of blocks before we got to his school drop off and gave me a chagrined/apologetic/cheerful "happy birthday" when we were almost at school.
[As a side note, birthdays for Americans living in Australia are kind of out of sync, where our calendar is a day ahead of the US. On the bright side, having most of my family and many of my friends in the States means a two-day birthday-wishing fest. On the Aussie day, a few kind local souls left lovely, much-appreciated Facebook birthday messages. G, knowing me well, sent flowers.]
But it was a tough day, you guys. The mature Annie was willing but the inner youngster was weak. When it came down to it, no presents, no cake, no calls, and no birthday dinner meant that my inner birthday child felt kind of mopey and prone to pity partying instead.
Here's the rub: this was entirely avoidable! It's a lesson I keep learning, to either lower my expectations (and not expect mind reading) or speak up about them. Otherwise I'm just left with a cranky heart and bewildered loved ones. The naughty, told-you-so gremlin who lives in a little tarnished corner of our hearts is fed by the disappointment when people forget/fall short of our inner hopes. He makes us feel strangely virtuous and puritanical to have our wishes denied or withheld, as though it feels better to have our fears confirmed than our dreams fulfilled.
At our house we call this unnecessary martyrdom chicken-neck mom syndrome, our tendency to say--even when there's plenty to go around--"oh, no. Don't worry about me. You guys go ahead and take all the good meat. I'll gnaw on this chicken neck instead" with an air of ascetic self-righteousness. I could have spoken up when G offered to postpone. I could have told new local friends it was my birthday and scheduled a lunch out. I could have reminded and spelled it out for Sam and he surely would have risen to the challenge. But I settled for the chicken neck and a pity party instead. That's on me.
. . .
p.s. We ended up having a lovely birthday do-over the next week when everyone was home. My inner birthday gal did a happy dance. All's well that ends well.