There’s a little boy’s birthday in the house tomorrow. Actually, it’s today – it’s 4am here at the moment.
It’s not sugar crafting and gift wrapping that awoke me, with that un-pinnable downable anxiety that creeps in if you wake between 3 and 5. It’s something more. It’s the overwhelming burden of being a Mum. Pinterest is good for hacks on cake decorating and gift making: parenting existential birthday angst? Not so much.
I always find their birthdays bring a huge sense of something that I barely have the words to describe. It’s time that yes, there’s a connection with others – the socialising, feasting and fun that birthdays bring. I look forward to the birthday pancakes for breakfast, the playing with the toys, the sheer delight that all the boys share whether it is their own birthday or their brothers. But I also feel an inexplicable loneliness.
Parenting is so strange, isn’t it? It is hardly a condition unique to you. It’s something most people experience. Yet it is an experience that is so intensely personal that you sometimes feel nobody else can ever understand the length and breadth of your feelings, your delights, your fears.
How many women gave birth in the room in the local hospital where all my 3 children were born? Yet none of them can ever truly understand my feelings of holding my babies in my arms.
I feel a little lonely with my memories and also a little melancholy about the unstoppable nature of time. It would be wonderful to go back to that moment where he was handed to me, healthy and well, in those few minutes between the last terrifying push and when the stitches started to smart.
For me though, it’s not about wanting to go back, it’s about wanting to go forward. I want to know all the little decisions I make are the right little decisions. I want to know that he becomes confident and is allowed to flourish. I want to know he finds love and friendship. I want to know that he will see the world and that the world will, by and large, be a good place. I want to know that he will outlive me, that he will die old, content and at peace.
If I knew these things then I might be sleeping a littler easier right now, but of course I can’t know what comes next. If there is one thing giving birth teaches us, it is the unstoppable, unpredictable, painful, joyous force that is life – both giving it and living it.
Life, like your child’s birthday, is both a sense of togetherness when you share the celebration, and of intense isolation when you peer into the darkness of their unknown future.
How to handle to darkness? Light the candles on that birthday cake! Sing, laugh, enjoy seeing his face lit up. Catch the eye of another Mum and know that while she can never understand precisely how you feel, that she gets it too.
Enjoy the cake, play with the presents, and remember those moments.
Farewell birthday angst – see you next year!
Happy birthday little Man