Putting My Birthday On The Map

I’d been single parenting for nine months, and now it was almost my birthday. My daughters were three and five, and it struck me that there was no one who would buy a cake, give me a present, or even know to sing happy birthday. 

I knew that over time they’d learn the birthday rituals from nursery school, kindergarten, and other people’s parties. But until then, I wanted to keep my own birthday from falling into oblivion in my own home. Even more than that, I wanted them to understand from the start the importance of celebrating each other.

Here’s what this single mom did: I bought a festive cake. I got myself a present and giftwrapped it with a glitzy bow. “Today’s a Very Special Day!” I said, in that singsongy voice we sometimes use with kids. “Do you know why?” Then the big reveal. “It’s my birthday!” 

Out came the cake, the present, and an old black-and-white photo of my first birthday. We sang happy birthday, each in our own fashion. “Help me blow out the candles,” I said, and they puffed up their cheeks and blew hard. “Now I make a secret birthday wish,” I said, and I scrunched my face and closed my eyes. When it’s your birthday, you’ll make a secret wish too.”

Eventually they learned the customs and the date of my birthday. Most important, they learned very early on that we celebrate each other to show our love. My birthday wish . . . granted.

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