Turning 40

Last night I greeted Backtire and Turtle as they climbed out of the car to say "Happy Birthday" to me and give me hugs. I thanked Backtire for the card and gift he had left for me to find that morning. Turtle's bottom lip started to quiver as his eyes got sad and he said "but I want to get you a present for your birthday." Tears began...

Oh no!

We had both failed to make a point to ensure that Backtire helped Turtle select a gift and prepare it for my birthday in advance. I felt so bad! The thought had crossed my mind a few days ago that he's old enough to get how birthdays work now and to want to be a part of preparing gifts for someone, as we've done so for his friends', cousins, and great-grandfather's birthday parties over the past months. But it's been a year since Mommy & Daddy had a birthday and we just didn't think it through as to how to include a 5-year old in that. Plus, we've all been so busy and exhausted and there wasn't really a plan to do anything special on a Tuesday night for my birthday. We're having a larger extended family dinner on Saturday. So, it just wasn't on our minds.

I hugged Turtle and told him that there was only one present I really wanted from him and that was a hug and a kiss. He smiled and gave me those, but then burst back into big tears saying "I know, but I want to give you a real present and wrap the present and give it to you on your birthday." I offered that my party wasn't until Saturday so he still had time to do that, but he wanted to give it to me on my real birthday. He cried frustrated that "I need help getting a present, I don't know how to buy one myself!"

We were about to go out to dinner and everyone was already starving, which wasn't helping us out of the meltdown, so I offered that Daddy could help him figure out how to get a present tonight after dinner if he wanted. He suddenly straightened up and got serious and said "Well, I need to go to Target" and asked me how late they were open. Then, "but I don't know if they have what I want to get."

"Well, Dad will know- talk to him about it. He'll help you."

"He doesn't know! Now I have to give it away!" Crumpling into my arms.

"No, you don't. He'll know. Ask him."

"Well, he doesn't know if they have grown up books at Target!"

"They do. He can help you with that."

"Now I gave it away!" Huge, more frustrated cries.

"No, you didn't, because I don't know which book you'll pick."

"But I don't know any of the names of the grown up books!" More agonized crying.

"Daddy can help you with that. You guys can go after dinner and he'll show you which ones I like."

Eventually, he calmed down enough for us to make it into the car and head to dinner.

I don't want the focus of birthdays to be on the idea that we get stuff. But I completely understood where he was coming from, too, in being so upset, because getting presents is one of the exciting things about a birthday and he saw how enthusiastically I had just thanked Daddy for his gift to me and felt left out of being able to make me feel that way, also.

And I felt so crappy and sad about all of this because it is really our responsibility to help him be able to give someone a gift if he wants to. He's not going to check his calendar and remember a birthday is coming and make time to create something or find a way to go buy something on his own. And he expressed all of that to us- that he couldn't get to the store or even know which book to pick without our help.

And I felt heart-warmed that he had such a desire to get me a gift and that he suddenly came up with the idea of a grown up book, which is a lovely perfect idea as a gift for me and makes me happy that he recognizes our shared love of reading and books and that I would enjoy a grown up book just for me.

So, that is how I found myself on my 40th birthday sitting in the passenger seat of the car in the rain in the parking lot of Target past bed-time with Backtire and Turtle inside buying me a surprise grown up book, frantically texting back and forth to Backtire in an effort to help him select a good book for me. I was trying in vain to remember what popular bestseller type book Target might have that I would want or names of authors that I like in general, but which books of theirs I've already read, all without being able to be in there and see the bookshelves and he was texting me possible titles for approval. We finally settled upon Eat, Pray, Love. Whew! All the while, Turtle was oblivious to this behind-the-scenes choreography of my gift selection.

They emerged from the store, one weary and one dimpled with excitement holding a Target plastic bag and saying "we got your surprise!" After we got home, I was banished to the back of the house while the gift was carefully wrapped and the secret bonus gift of my favorite ice cream was put in the freezer. Then right before I was to open the gift, a relative called to wish me a happy birthday.

Finally, much past 9 pm, the moment arrived and Turtle excitedly presented me with my beautifully wrapped gift. I opened it and exclaimed that I had been wanting to read this book and how did he know?! And thank you so much for getting me a book because I love to read and it makes me really happy! and hugs and kisses!

And he was smiling from ear to ear.

And that was the real gift.

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