Friday, June 10, 2011

Birthdays Past

If you find yourself wondering why birthdays are such a big deal around here, allow me to tell you...

First of all, we don't have big birthday parties, anymore. We used to, but now we keep the party to our own little 4 B family - we go out to dinner as a family and have cake at home. I think birthdays are a big deal to me, personally, because of how my birthdays have been celebrated in the past. My parents and grandparents always made me feel special, of course, but my childhood friends never did, and now I actually have a complex about my birthday, believe it or not. Which is one of the reasons I was so blown away by what my friends did for me on my birthday this year (see post Birthday Fit For A Queen, B That Is).

I remember once I had a birthday party when I was in the third grade. I was SO EXCITED, because it was a sleepover. But once all my friends got to my house after school, which was located on a cattle ranch out in the sticks, things didn't go the way I thought they would. One of my older friends, who was actually a cousin of mine, completely "took over." She told everyone what to do the entire time, and I felt left out and betrayed. I even got in trouble at one point because I was so upset that she sat in the chair I wanted to sit in at the birthday table. I got in trouble because my parents expected more out of me, much like I would expect more out of my own children today. Even though I knew my parents were disappointed in me, I couldn't figure out why they didn't see what I saw. Needless to say, I never had a birthday party like that again. And to this day, memories and feelings from that party haunt me, because when I think about it, what kid wouldn't have wanted to be the "special" one on their birthday? It isn't like I was a spoiled brat, even though I understand why my parents were so disappointed in me. But on the other hand, I will never forget how jilted and sad and betrayed I felt during that entire experience. And to be honest, I think my mom would have handled it differently, today.

Fast forward to high school, my junior year. We had a basketball game in town. I went all day long without anyone saying "happy birthday," and I remember thinking they were probably saving it for something special at the basketball game - I thought they would sing to me in the locker room or something, making it a big surprise. After all, that is what the norm was for the other girls. But... Nothing. I didn't even get to play in the game, as a matter of fact. My parents and grandparents were the only ones who even acknowledged my birthday that year. I was devastated, and even though I certainly had some issues, just like every other girl in high school, I don't think I deserved to be ignored on my 17th birthday.

Writing this now, I can imagine people will think I must have been quite the bitch, or people wouldn't have treated me that way. And I admit I was a bit of a hag. I was also insecure, scared to be the real me, and desperate to have people like me and accept me, just like every other teenager in the world. I don't think I deserve all the blame, in other words. Sometimes people, and especially girls, are just mean, plain and simple.

So my birthday is not something I look forward to, ever, because I have all these bad memories that come swimming back to me. Were it not for my kids, I would ignore the day entirely. When I say I have a birthday complex, I'm not kidding. Even though I have loving family and friends in my life today, scars from the past are still heavy on my heart, and I have to work at not making my birthdays bad by recalling the pain and fear from birthdays past. And I know this makes me sound like a spoiled rotten brat. I can admit I wasn't perfect then, and I'm certainly not perfect today. I've done a lot of growing and changing over the years (praise the Lord!), and I've wished many times I could have been a different person growing up. All I really wanted was for my birthday to be as special as everyone else's birthdays felt to me. Irregardless of me and my issues, though, the point is that my birthdays have caused some bad feelings, and that pain is buried deep in my heart and still lurks there today.

So yes, birthdays are a big deal around here. And they always will be. What a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the existence of God's miracles in human form. I do find myself being overly sensitive to the way others treat my children's birthdays. In the early years of their lives, when someone I considered important to our family would ignore their special day, it hurt me far more than it hurt my babies. I pray my precious B's never feel the sting of neglect on their birthdays. Of course you know I will do everything in my power to keep that from happening. But I've also learned that I have no control over other people, so really, all I can do is shower my B's with my own love, and let the rest of the world do as it will. And frankly? Thank God my kids don't live in a community like the one I grew up in. Thank God for the miracle of wonderful people in their lives. And thank God for birthdays to celebrate!

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