It doesn’t matter how old my children are. It doesn’t matter where they are. On their birthdays, I approach it like the sacred holiday that it is. It’s a day to celebrate the unique, wonderful, beautiful and radiant wholeness of who they are. It’s a chance to elevate them, to single them out, and to set them apart to honor and acknowledge them.
From my children’s very first birthday until now, each year I make a special arrangement for them on the table which includes baby keepsakes: the little ceramic shoe that the hospital presented to us with their full name, the date and time of their birth, along with their weight and length; baby photos, flowers and balloons. This became what my oldest son’s girlfriend now refers to as ‘the shrine’.
The shrine hasn’t really changed over the years. Even when my oldest son wasn’t home on his birthday (while he was in his Freshman and Sophomore year at college), the shrine was still there in honor of him. That’s when it really hit me and the lines started to blur as I realized that the shrine was as much in celebration for me as it was for them. The shrine was also honoring my experience as well.
When it comes to my children’s birthdays, the memories of the pregnancy and the birth itself are extremely vivid in my mind. I can recall details leading up to the delivery and the delivery itself. Ask most mothers about giving birth and we’ll invite you for tea to regale you with our birth stories! I’ve always had the view that my children’s birthdays are really MY BIRTH days! I think birthdays should be called Borndays, after all, aren’t we celebrating the day that we were born? To be born is to exist as a result of a birth. What we know as a ‘birthday’ is the act of being born on a specific day. Therefore, it’s my birth day and their ‘born day’. If you’re wondering then about the meaning and celebration around Mother’s Day, well that’s easy. That’s the celebration and appreciation of the ‘job’ and the work we do as Mothers. It’s essentially honoring the role of mothering.
And so, it remains that I hold birthdays – especially the birthdays of my children – as high holidays. I will comply with convention and sing the Birthday song and utter the appropriate Birthday greetings. The day really is about them, but deep inside, there’s a profound acknowledgement of the unfathomable miracle of creating, carrying, and giving birth to life—and, on that special day, to celebrate this one, sweet, and utterly precious life.