what happens when a kid’s birthday doesn’t live up to his expectations?

Tomorrow is my middle child’s seventh birthday, and Seamus has been humming to himself all week. This morning at breakfast, he informed me that he was “6 and 364/365ths,” and I only wish I was half so sanguine about my own upcoming birthday, hurtling toward me on its tracks of doomed mortality.

Back to Seamus, who is literally quivering with anticipation. This has me more than a little stressed, because as you can see in the photo, once the actual birthday arrives, it can be a bit of a letdown. Last year, his birthday included a magic show, a trip to the candy store, and going out to dinner; he termed that “the high kind of medium.”  Going off that reaction, I fear that we could Troop the Colour tomorrow and it still might not live up to his yet-optimistic and extremely elevated expectations. 

I always freak out the day before my kids’ birthdays that I don’t have enough presents for them. There are some mothers who have the presents thought out, wrapped, and hidden about the garden two days ahead of time. That is not me. I tend to hit Amazon three days ahead of time, searching for …I’m not sure what, after I suddenly realize my God, I have nothing. Then I open the linen closet and find three presents I bought a month ago jammed behind the winter blankets. In this case, I have a collection of random things I have amassed for his birthday (a book, a Nerf football) and one BIG present, an enormous box that has been torturing him all week. It’s a ping-pong table. I think Seamus likes ping-pong. I mean, he did last time I checked. 

I have particular stress about Seamus’s birthday because summer birthdays suck, and I speak from experience. Why bother with a birthday party? Your school friends aren’t around, your summer friends are all taking turns not being around, and it’s harder to feel like your birthday is a big deal. I remember the summer I turned six- my family was on vacation in the Poconos. We were staying in some sort of cabin situation, and we had a “party” for my birthday which involved other random vacationers stopping by to say hi before dinner. However I also remember being really and truly psyched when a nice man with a beard gave me a dollar bill. So maybe summer birthdays aren’t all bad.

I had just managed to tell myself to stop overthinking when my (out of town) husband called this morning. “I don’t know,” he said. “Do you think we’re set for tomorrow?”

Yes. Totally. Definitely. As long as Seamus still likes ping-pong.

awaiting baby O

My sister is having her first baby on Thursday, and I am so excited I am having a little bit of trouble sitting still long enough to type this. In a way, it’s even more exciting than the births of my own three children– I am about to have a new baby to hold WHENEVER I WANT that I didn’t have to carry around in this insane heat wave and then labor out of me beforehand.

My sister and brother-in-law don’t know what they’re having, a stance which I wholeheartedly support. Having done it both ways, I felt the delivery-room surprise was well worth waiting for. However, they do know that “Baby O” will arrive this Thursday, by hook or by crook, and that is because my sister is having the largest baby in all of Christendom.

OK not really; Gabriel Dake of Spotsylvania, MD, came into the world at twelve pounds just this week, and here he is at right with his exhausted mother. But I’ve seen some amazing 4D ultrasound photos of my new niece/nephew, and from what I’ve seen, Baby O has at least as much dewlap going as Master Dake, here. My sister’s latest ultrasound suggests that Baby O is an impressive 9 pounds, 15 ounces- a full two weeks ahead of his/her due date, to boot– and so the OB said, clear your schedule.

My sister and brother-in-law are doing just that, rushing about to and fro, and above all I think I am envious of my sister for getting to skip weeks 39 and 40. Who wouldn’t take that trade, even with a few to-dos left over? But it does seem foreign to me, this idea of knowing what day your baby is going to come. Pretty cool. But still weird.

My sister is checking into the hospital on Wed night. I hope she manages to catch a few winks. I’m pretty sure I won’t!

Did any of you have inductions/ planned C-sections, so that you knew what day your baby would arrive? I’m wondering how that changes the experience of awaiting a birth, particularly if you’ve also done it the old-fashioned “is that a labor cramp, or is that gas?” way.  I’ve done both finding out / not finding out gender of baby, and have a clear preference; if you’ve birthed both on a scheduled day, and not, which worked better for you? 

PS: Good Saint Ann, nine pounds, fifteen ounces?!

the sign on Leiby Kletzky’s door

I am excited to have had this post syndicated on blogher.com. Check it out here if you’re so inclined…

 If you’re anything like me, you have been disgusted by every detail of the kidnapping and murder of eight-year-old Brooklynite Leiby Kletzky, and yet compelled to know more. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to hide the newspaper for three days running, or change the channel every time my kids entered the room. But I have to keep looking. 

I raise my children in New York City. I have an eight-year-old son who is starting to long for his independence. My first apartment when I moved to New York was four blocks from where Leiby’s body was found in a dumpster. This hits way, way too close to home.

I cannot stop thinking about Leiby’s mother, how carefully she must have weighed whether Leiby was old enough to walk home from day camp by himself. Maybe she thought he wasn’t ready. Maybe someone told her, oh, c’mon, we’ve got the lowest crime rate in all of Brooklyn. He’ll be FINE. Maybe she agreed only when she saw how excited her son was to take that walk on his own for the first time. Maybe she thought, oh, I’m just being silly. Maybe she didn’t even worry that much the first five, ten, fifteen minutes she expected him home. I go to sleep at night and think about her, and wonder if she will ever find a moment’s comfort again, ever have another hour without an if-I-had-only to haunt her.

For her sake, at least, I take comfort in this: the entire Hasidic community is rallying around her and around Leiby’s father, protecting them from all the details of what happened to their son. They know he is gone– of what use is anything more? A sign has been posted on their front door, and what it says is something like this: there are things this family does not need to know. Do not be the ones to tell them. Everyone is working together to protect this broken family. I hope, in these days of murdered children’s cellphone voice mails being hijacked, that the world will honor that request. 

Someday, all too soon, Leiby’s mother will want to know everything, will HAVE to know– but I hope that even then, there will be arms on all sides to hold her up, and keep her safe. If you believe in a higher power, please join me in a prayer that Mrs. Kletzky’s God will be her refuge.

going away to come back home

This past week, David and I took a madcap, last-minute, not-sure-we’re-actually-going-until-we-left trip together last week. He was going to London for business; I joined him, and then we had three days in Italy together, JUST US. Our in-laws watched the kids over the long 4th of July weekend (thanks again YaYa and Poppy). 

The scenery (and the pasta) were amazing, of course, but the best part was the uninterrupted time together– three days to really talk about who we are, what we want from our lives and our careers and each other, what our dreams are for our kids. Because really, our daily lives are at least as “madcap” as the scrambling we did at Gatwick Airport when our flight to Florence was cancelled. (I whipped out my smartphone- thank you Kayak!-  and David worked his usual magic with the gate agents and we eked out another skin-of-our-teeth victory.) It feels like that’s our usual reality, moving through life at a brisk jog, dealing with the kids and collapsing on the couch after they’re in bed, getting each other’s daily headlines, but that’s it. Having to run through the airport in order to slow down with my spouse seems a little silly– but it worked wonders, even if we might have saved ourselves the trouble of a nine-hour flight home in order to do it.  

We missed the kids just the right amount. They seem to have missed us just the right amount. And I learned (once again) that I can be a better mother (and wife) for the time I spend away from my children. 

When was the last time you and your partner had the chance to recharge your batteries- as individuals and as a couple? How often do you allow yourself to be away from your children overnight?