Sunday, December 19, 2010

On birthdays, bribary and brainstorming

Dear Ittybit,

I know I should feel terribly embarrassed by all the excess we’ve exhibited at birthday parties.

More than two dozen people invited to a two-hour event. At Christmas time, no less.

But I don't feel embarrassed.

Conflicted, maybe, but not embarrassed.

The much reviled gift bag is in full production mode at our house. You are busy choosing tiny toys and notebooks for each of the kids who will be in attendance.

I understand the disdain for such things. Before I was even born, I've been told, the party WAS the present.

However, when I was growing up a few kids would go home with prizes, which was probably how all this excess was born. Everyone, as they start having children and hosting yearly parties of their own, remembers feeling like a loser as they left time after time empty handed.

Here we are — adults, a whole lifetime later — trying to compensate for all the mild disappointments with small bag of trinkets to be handed out to the children we sugared up and are sending home with their parents, who will no doubt, at some point during the year, repay the favor.

Entitlement and consumerism are blamed for what happens these days.

Some of us — but not all — rent places and spaces, trying to create memories that will last until next year ... when we'll try to top ourselves. We hire horses and clowns and enthusiasts of all ilk to entertain. The naysayers tell us we want to be the envy of our friends.

In the abstract it sounds so much more of an indictment of modern life than it seems in practice: “It's only money” is nothing if not the polar opposite of “it's such a waste.”

I watch you as you plan and prep the bags. All my angst and anticipation channeled into a plastic and paper assembly line of things that don't really matter; things that will wind up forgotten at the bottom of a drawer.

... Except that they do, somehow, matter in the moment we are here together “brainstorming.” In the minutes we spend planning, shopping and producing we are sharing a moment that may be or may never be forgotten.

Only time will tell.

I had begun to think it didn't matter; that it doesn't matter. But I've shrugged that feeling off. It does matter.

The thing we lose by being so caught up in the details is the big picture; this celebration of birth and belonging and life gets lost in the minutia of the minute.

More than seven years ago, when I sat on an examining table in a paper robe listening to the doctor telling me I would have a Christmas baby ... I felt sorry for you, a person I didn’t yet know.

Back then, I thought you would be forgotten in the hoopla that is the holidays.

I had no way of knowing what a gift I would get in you that Christmas. I didn't have the forethought or clarity — and still don't — to understand how Christmas would be forever changed because of it. Each year brings a new revelation.

So as we ready for the day you will turn seven, I want to tell you to just enjoy this moment for all that it is and for all it could be. And I'll try to do the same.

Time has a way of changing things … not always for the worse.

Love and just-about-birthday kisses,

— Mommy

1 comment:

Heather said...

Oh how I can relate. At this very moment I am taking a brief break to rest my weary writting hand from addressing birthday party invitations. January 12th is his birthday. Invitations have to be mailed strategically to not get lost with the Christmas cards but get there early enough to allow people to put it in their calanders.

How did I get here? Wasn't I going to wait a few more years? Must we invite EVERY kid in his 16 person class? Will they talk about it? Will they even know?