My sweet little ginger-haired girl just turned 9. And it pains me to say that the major emotion she felt on her birthday was disappointment. The lesson Laurel learned on her birthday is a particularly hard one for children to learn: it turns out that her birthday is…just another day on the calendar. School did not stop. Lesson plans went on as usual. No cupcakes arrived at the school in celebration of her birth. Only 12 people in the entire school wished her a happy birthday. She came home from school deflated and in tears.
We talked, and I held her in my lap for awhile, the tears wetting my shirt as we talked about how insensitive the world is sometimes, when we most want it not to be. Her birthday is not a national holiday. The world does not indeed revolve around such events. But MY world does, and I let her know this in as many ways as I could. I wrapped my arms around her and I took my time, recounting the day she was born in every detail I could recall. She loves when I tell her the birth story. And because Laurel is smarter than I am and has an amazing memory, I know that I have to be on my game. Because she will remember every word I say.
Finally, she looked at me with her big blue eyes, and nodded sadly that she understood. And in that moment, she was 15 and just had her heart broken by her first boyfriend. She was 18 and didn’t get into the college of her choice. She was 26, and just figured out that all the passion and convictions inside you doesn’t, in the end, save you from getting chewed up in the corporate machinery. In that moment, she just understood that sometimes, life is unfair and insensitive. And doesn’t that just suck?
Her day got better, as days do when you are 9. When you can have a good cry, and your mom gives you cookies, and the world rights itself.
The understanding is another notch on the wall. Another milestone reached. And just as the faded pencil marks on the bookcase document her moving toward maturity, so, too, grow my hopes that she will continue to take life’s lessons with such grace. Soon, she will learn the truth of all those wonderful childish fantasies she so fervently wants to keep believing, and I hope the disappointment doesn’t harden her heart. Soon she will understand how hard it is for one person’s dreams to make a lasting difference, and I hope it doesn’t discourage her.
I wish that life would be gentler on my children, as all parents do. I wish the world did stop and take notice that, hey, there’s a great kid over here, celebrating her 9th year of life. So be kind! Be good to her!
Happy 9th birthday, my love!