04
Mar
12

The Best Worst Birthday Ever

Recently my third son (which shall remain nameless) turned 13, which to me is such a big deal age. Entering teenage-hood. Big stuff. But this kid doesn’t like any attention drawn to him ever. He’d just rather blend in with his environment. He doesn’t really like to be hugged or touched and acts like he’s being electrically shocked when he is touched. I hug him anyway and sometimes make him hug me back just because I believe everyone needs physical touch. And we play the game of him being electrocuted by my touch. I’m cool with that.

But, a week before said son’s birthday, he started saying that he didn’t want to have a birthday. Once again, I’m sorry, he’s going to have a birthday. This is just how it is. We celebrate birthdays. They’re important, no matter what age. And it wasn’t like I invited 50 people to come celebrate. We have a very simple birthday with our immediate family only. We have cake and ice cream, sing happy birthday, and open presents. That’s it. No big deal. Really.

So I backed off a little in talking about his birthday and bought a few presents anyway, even though he said he didn’t want presents or cake or ice cream. What kid doesn’t want presents or cake or ice cream? I understand not wanting to have people watch you open your presents or having a short song dedicated to your day, but it only happens once a year, so really, just suck it up.

So “the day” arrives. And it slowly unraveled. Cake and ice cream and singing did not go well. I thought I remained calm and didn’t push, not all that hard anyway. It was kind of like a big joke to me, for a while, thinking that he would eventually give in, act like he was being electrocuted and then open his presents.

His presents sat on the piano bench all day long. Second son could hardly stand it because he is such a party person. He lives to plan parties and can’t understand why someone would choose to not open their presents. So second son tried to entice third son by carrying presents around and putting them in close proximity to him.

It didn’t work. He still didn’t want to open his presents or eat his cake and ice cream that we had all gotten into several hours earlier. I had no idea this child was this stubborn. Or really, that I cared that much.

I finally lost it. Badly. Very, very badly. He had finally gotten to me, and I exploded in anger and unwrapped his presents and showered the wrapping paper all over the floor and put his now-opened presents back on the piano bench. And then, I proceeded to cry my eyes out, because I don’t know how in the world to love this kid, to really, really love him. He had just broken my heart, and I realized how rash and angry and how wrong I had been and how I had made his birthday about me.

He came downstairs and saw his opened presents sitting on the bench. And ran back up the stairs, crying like a wounded animal.

At this point, all I wanted to do was crawl in my bed and go to sleep and forget this day forever.

But somehow, I gathered the courage to go talk to third son. He was crying on his bed with his blanket covering his head, and I managed to blubber out how sorry I was that I opened his presents and how much I really do love him. I felt like he had rejected our attempts to love him, as poor as they were. And both of us just kept crying. And I’m not really sure what happened at that moment. But something broke in me. And whatever it was, that same thing also seemed to break in him.

I hauled his opened presents up to his room, and he pulled them out of the bag that I had stuffed them in and looked at each one of them and said, “Thanks, Mom.” They were all the kinds of things my third son loves.

I just stood there with my heart so gushy with all the sadness and the happiness and the love I didn’t think it was capable of after such a day. I had made such a mess of his 13th birthday, but we’d seemed to have made a break through in our moment of brokenness, making each of us perhaps realize that it wasn’t all about him or all about me. I’m afraid, it may be his most memorable birthday. It will definitely be mine.

A few days later, his grandparents brought over a cake and wanted to take us all out for pizza. And they made such a big deal over third son, I thought that he might crack under all the pressure, but he actually smiled shyly and took it. I wouldn’t say that he enjoyed being the center of attention, but he endured it in a very brave kind of way that if we hadn’t had his hell-ish birthday of confusion and clarity, he might never have withstood it. But he did great, even down to the singing of “Happy Birthday” in the middle of Pizza Hut. Wow.

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5 Responses to “The Best Worst Birthday Ever”


  1. 1 shelg
    March 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Love it Kim…so funny..on the way home tonight as we were passing through I just wanted to call and pick your brain on parenting and perspective and all those things…and now I do all the more. Love your heart and the way God works in you and your family…miss you friend!

  2. 3 John Cooper
    March 5, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Great story….Love gets the best of everyone over time….

  3. 4 CindyWaldrop
    March 6, 2012 at 5:24 am

    “because I don’t know how in the world to love this kid, to really, really love him.”
    “And I’m not really sure what happened at that moment. But something broke in me. And whatever it was, that same thing also seemed to break in him.”
    “I just stood there with my heart so gushy with all the sadness and the happiness and the love I didn’t think it was capable of after such a day.”

    Wow, Kim. Such a moving story. So brave to tell. Brokenness crying out and moving to grow in love. His birthday will certainly be memorable to me. And I can’t remember birthdays at all. Ever.

    Love flying north to you.


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