I am still learning how to have birthdays. Last month was mine, and a couple weeks later, my daughter Joy’s; making 18 birthdays in reunion. My family of origin didn’t seem to make much of birthdays. In my first year of marriage discounting my new husband’s birthday was an awakening. I spent the evening in what I thought was a crucial community meeting dealing with a ‘crisis’ that I can’t even remember now. The next day a friend explained that my husband’s birthday was MUCH more important than a fleeting community crisis. But I didn’t believe her. I thought my husband was making a big deal out of nothing, a birthday (!?), a number on the calendar? To this day (29 years later) I am still living that down in my own mind. How do I do this right? This year he encouraged me to go ahead and go to my weekly dance class instead of taking him out to dinner on his birthday. So I did. When I got home, Joy called me and I talked to her for well over an hour and used up the remaining free time for that birthday night. Why didn’t I tell her it wasn’t a good time to talk? Well cuz she is so busy and she doesn’t call very often and she might not call me back tomorrow and… And next year I’m going to set the whole day aside, way ahead of time. I’m going to get it right for once, maybe.
Our first year in reunion I was was pleased that my birthday is just a couple weeks before Joy’s. Since she ‘didn’t want a mother’, just wanted to get to know me, medical info etc. I still feel the disconnect inside remembering that she wasn’t looking for a mother and thinking, but I am her mother. Ok, how can I not be her mother? I was desperate to keep her in my life, not to lose her again. I thought I should treat her birthday the way she treated mine and simply copy whatever she did.
Not very mothering, eh? Because mothers make a fuss over their children’s birthdays, at least the first 21 or so, right? And I was (in a sense) a new mother, because our relationship was new, without tradition or shared stories.
Now that I know adoptee birthdays tend to trigger a variety of events. I approached her birthday with some anxiety. Emotions could erupt. Last year was the first time since birth that we shared her birthday and it was terrific — a landmark. This year I had a workshop to attend the weekend of her day and so arrived a week late. I worried that she might feel slighted, but we talked about it. We acknowledged and honored the event, the day, her birth. When we got together, we just let ourselves be and it was just right, gifting each other and ourselves and settling in.
I’m learning to be her mother all the time because I’m still learning to be me.