Un-birthday or birthday? That is the question for Laurie Wallin. Her recent birthday celebration wasn’t quite what she expected. So after the fact, she came up with seven tips to keep next year’s big day from becoming a big pain. Maybe you can use them, too.
My Un-birthday and How to Keep our Birthdays Fun
by Laurie Wallin
I don’t know why, but somehow I’ve got it in my mind that my birthday is supposed to be fun. The sun comes up, I awake, and my mind fills with images of breakfast in bed, shiny balloons, and not having to cook for 24 hours.
Un-birthday or Birthday?
Which isn’t what happened yesterday on my birthday. Not that my oldest daughter intentionally tried to make me miserable. It was just the unfortunate byproduct of marrying a “big family day” with her bipolar, anxiety, developmental disabilities (and let’s not forget the delightful tween hormones).
It looked a little like this:
“Mom, let’s have a special breakfast for your birthday!”
“Sounds great! What shall we do?”
“Ooo, let’s make eggs and pancakes. You love those!”
“I really do. Let’s do it!” I scoop up her younger sister, who just emerged from upstairs. This distraction unnerves my oldest because it’s a deviation from the plan.
“Mom, we NEED TO START COOKING.”
“Yep, let me just say hi to the other girls, then we’ll get started…”
“NO! IT’S TIME FOR BREAKFAST. THEY CAN WAIT!! IF WE DON’T MAKE IT NOW, EVERYONE WILL GET HUNGRIER AND GRUMPY AND THEN IT WON’T BE A GOOD BIRTHDAY FOR YOU!!!”
This happened for every meal. And when she ran out of tape while wrapping my present. And when we decided to go to my favorite park and then I changed my mind (which just wasn’t an option). Each time crumbled into a major tantrum, none of our usual interventions working, and her ending up in her room.
Well, at least I can’t say it was an unmemorable birthday! Then again, most “big days” for the family have that tendency. Perhaps you can relate?
How to Avoid an Un-birthday
I let my guard down that day (due to the above mentioned delusions), but on a better day, there are a few tools that help keep “big days” from becoming “big pains.”
- Write out the schedule and post it on the fridge. Yes, this takes some of the spontaneity out of the day, but it takes some of the emotion and tantruming out, too.
- Communicate what you need and expect to someone who can actually make it happen. For me, it meant asking my husband to have ice cream instead of cake (which I despise since I’ve had to make probably 1000 cupcakes for my combined 4 daughters’ birthdays over the years!)
- Plan down time periodically throughout the day (for you). Walk the dog, take a power nap, read a favorite magazine or book… something that gives your mind and body (and stress hormones) time to relax and recharge.
- Sprinkle parts of the celebration over a few days so it’s not ONE big day. There’s merit to the concept “too much of a good thing.” When it comes to children with mood, behavioral and developmental disorders, “too much” is smaller than we might think.
- Keep the usual behavior expectations in place and stay consistent with consequences. It was a bummer that I had to discipline my daughter so much on my birthday. But really, her growth is my priority and I can celebrate getting old any day of the year.
- Don’t expect your kids to be excited about the day. If special days are consistently difficult for the family, set up a dinner out with your friends sans kids sometime near the big day. I end up doing this every year, and it’s becoming a fun tradition!
- Laugh it off. The next day, my husband gave me the best gift ever: an hour of his time to vent, get dramatic, and blow off my post-special-day steam. (I love that man!) Whether it’s with your spouse, a good friend, your neighbor, God, your journal or your facebook page… laugh it off. A good laugh releases endorphins that heal and relax you. So use laughter liberally!
More than anything else, know that it’s okay to have and celebrate your special days. Like anything in our families, that may require a little more creativity and planning. However that looks, do what YOU need so your special days can still be fun and memorable. Your kids may not thank you for having birthdays, but they’ll certainly notice your happiness and sense of fulfillment!
Have You Had an Un-birthday?
This is your chance to try Laurie’s seventh tip and laugh off your unbirthday. Just leave a comment telling the story of your unbirthday disaster, so we can laugh with you. So start typing and release those endorphins waiting to help you heal and relax. And enjoy more of Laurie’s posts at her website, www.LaurieWallin.com.
Laurie Wallin is a wife and mom of four – two adopted with developmental delays, mood disorders, and ADHD. A former junior high teacher turned speaker and life coach, she loves to learn, laugh until their sides hurt, and help women be courageous in life.