OK or not, sometimes it’s unavoidable.
This one time, I missed my son’s birthday. It wasn’t like I forgot it – although if you ask me the birthdays of each of my kids, I have to pause for a moment to get all the numbers right. I’ve never been good with dates. No, I missed it because I had to work.
As he is the youngest of my three children, I’d already clocked quite a few kid birthdays: 23 of them to be exact. They do tend to blur a bit, to be honest.But I won’t pretend I wasn’t anguished by the thought of not being there when he woke up.
In our house, like most I imagine, the formal part of birthday festivities occur in the morning as soon as the birthday person wakes up. We all pile into our bedroom and sing and unwrap presents and there’s always one from the dog or at least a card.A few years ago, however, when my baby was turning two, I wasn’t there. Instead, I was climbing on board the Prime Ministerial jet waiting to interview the then-Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, and frantically looking for a pen.
Well, when you say it like that it sounds kind of arrogant but HE IS MY BABY.
Turns out Julia couldn’t change her schedule for my toddler and I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to interview her, so I flew down to Melbourne the night before my son’s birthday and sucked it up like this:
Before I went though, I realized something pretty great. Because he was only turning two, he had no idea when his birthday was. In fact, the whole concept of a birthday was still a bit loose. So I changed it.
I moved his birthday to the following day. Just for that year. It worked well.
Professional parenting troll Katie Hopkins – who is almost spectacular in her fearless desire to piss off as many people as possible – has sparked a new storm after claiming she didn’t care if she missed her kids’ birthdays because work must come first.
She followed this up with an interview on Mornings where she sounded a little more reasonable:
“My children recognize that I’m on the road a lot, I have to work a lot. I leave a present in their bedroom for them and I say you can open that present or you can wait until I’m home at the weekend and we can open it all together. They make a choice. They understand we’re a team, we all have to work together and it only takes a few steps from special child to spoilt child and I like to think mine are simply special. If I miss the day – I haven’t forgotten the day – but if I miss the day we’ll make it up some other time.”
When you’re a mother who has a job outside the house, you’re constantly forced to make compromises like this. Even if you’re at home full time, if you have other children you’ll still have to make choices. You can’t always be at every sports game or every ballet rehearsal or every minor school assembly performance. It’s simply not possible.
And frankly, birthdays aside, I do find the expectations of kids today for how many things their parents will attend to be far far higher than ours were when we were at school. My Mom worked. So did my Dad. They never came to my swim meets or athletic games.
They were barely ever at school – only a few hardcore Moms ever were. But now, I assume there are a dozen things a semester that I’m expected to attend at my kids’ schools, not to mention their expectation I’ll be there to watch every sports practice and game.
I do what I can and I feel guilty about the rest but I can’t shake the idea that we’ve raising a generation who needs us to be watching them and praising them and validating their every move and achievement. That without an audience, none of it has any meaning. Is that harsh?
For birthdays though, now that my kids are too old to be tricked, I’ll be there.
Have you ever missed one of your kids’ birthdays? Did your parents’ ever miss your birthday when you were growing up?