Previously published in The Kansas City Star news: September 26, 2015
I grew up in a house where birthdays were not only celebrated, but morphed into a pageant. They always included some sort of a talent segment and occasional formal wear, but thank goodness swimsuits never made an appearance. (That one Christmas when Grandpa took off his shirt by the tree to model his new gift was enough torture for a lifetime. As a result, we enforced a stringent dress code.)
We couldn’t celebrate a birthday on just one day. Apparently, the idea of throwing one party annually never occurred to us. Why would you do that when you could drag out your birthday for a week?
So when my children were born, I unfortunately continued the tradition of pageantry. Honestly, I planned on doing the opposite. So naïve. I failed to realize how difficult it would be to get the entire family together. Hence, the birthday spectacle carries on.
To begin the never-ending birthday series — which we call September through December — my eldest daughter decided she should turn 10. I don’t know how it happened, but I must have been feeding and watering her because my little nut was heading into double digits.
Little did I know what “turning 10” meant to her. When I entered that decade, I never gave it much thought. It’s just another day older and an excuse for cake and presents. My daughter argued I was terribly wrong. I’m sensing this accusation will be frequenting her lips more often.
“Mom, it’s the only time you enter double digits!” she corrected.
This time she was right. Why hadn’t I thought of this? It was probably because I’m not good at math. This birthday was much grander than I had planned, and we only had a week to design this festival.
I must admit sometimes the planning is more exciting than the actual event for me. What kind of cake would she like, how many guests, what presents would surprise her? Do I need a pedicure, facial and massage?
After the plan was agreed upon and everything was in order, my soon-to-be birthday girl broke her arm. The emergency room staff reset her bone while she was under sedation. I’m proud to say I didn’t vomit or faint. Then they gave her a sturdy splint, which could also be fashioned as a weapon.
When my sweet girl woke up, the brevity of her reality hit her like a kid running into a sliding glass door. Everything she planned for her double-digit debutante dance was a disaster. No bumper cars, no laser tag, nary a go-cart, nor a rock to climb. This kid was ticked.
We became one with the pity party, but then it was time to hike up her sling and diagram a new party STAT!
We planned only four parties for her. I’m so ashamed as I write this. However, I figured one cake could last for two family parties so as to cut down on some work — tacky, yet practical. Then there was the party with friends, another party with more family, and typically a school party with treats.
Thank goodness for our fourth-grade teachers! The kids aren’t allowed to bring in treats for their birthdays. Before you gasp and claim that it’s un-American to withhold sweets for your child, or blame it on politics, ponder this.
Let’s use a CORE math number sentence to demonstrate:
If there are 30 kids in Artie’s class, and all the students celebrate their birthday once during the year, how many sugar highs will occur if the school year consists of 34 weeks? For extra credit, add in all of the school parties.
That’s almost one birthday a week!
But I digress. We survived all of our birthday celebrations without anyone going into a diabetic coma, the birthday girl had a great time, and I have six weeks before the next one.
Until then, I will be wearing down the soles of my walking shoes, just in case someone decides to bring the swimsuit competition back to our pageants.