Happy Birthday to my sweet sweet boy. Three years ago he made me a mama, and he’s growing into such a lovely person that I can barely stand it!
From the time I was a small girl, I have always wanted to celebrate St. Lucia Day. December 13th, a day marked in Sweden, Norway, and other northern countries, is marked by St. Lucia Day. A day honoring a Christian martyr, celebrated by the oldest girls in a family dressing as Lucia girls, and bringing coffee and buns to their parents. To celebrate my Swedish/Norwegian heritage, this year I dressed up as St. Lucia.
Did I also mention that it was my birthday on December 13th?
St. Lucia Day. My birthday. In my wedding dress, with my red sash, and homemade wreath of candles, I set out with two of my college friends to Seattle’s Pike Place Market to pass out candy canes as a strong female holiday character. To my great joy, there were many kids who said “Santa Lucia!” when they saw me. Seattle has a strong Swedish and Norwegian heritage, so it was fun to meet little blonde kids who had just come from dancing at the Nordic heritage museum and then getting candy canes from me at the market. A fun experience for me, too, and a great way to get another use out of my wedding dress!!
Today two of my dearest friends from college are coming in to town. One from across the mountains, riding the train and taking a bus to see me. The other driving up from Portland, Oregon, all to celebrate my birthday. A December birthday. And I. Can’t. Wait.
So, it was surprising to me, to be in the grocery line at Fred Meyer, and have the cashier tell me that Potamus will get too many presents in December, and that he should celebrate his birthday in June. Um, what? I’m celebrating his BIRTHday lady, not a random June weekday. But this sentiment is something I get a lot “oh, poor thing, having a December birthday,” and the following are either: A) He will get TOO MANY PRESENTS and be overwhelmed and then a whole year of waiting will suck for him, so spread it out, or B) He won’t get ANY presents, because people will combine them together and he’ll get shafted.
As a December birthday girl, I gotta say: people are fucking dumb.
I loved having a month of presents and magic. My friend Ruth’s birthday is on December 31 and she said it’s like the whole world parties for her birthday. I know several December birthdays, and with the exception of those born on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, nobody seems to have much of an issue with it. Because let’s be honest, when else do you get a WHOLE MONTH OF PRESENTS AND MAGIC? Getting a few toys in June just doens’t compare to the exponential magic of holiday parties and birthday parties and Christmas Eve and going to grandparent’s houses, and celebrating “Winter Holiday” in school and it feels like you were born at this magical time with Jolly Old St. Nick and Jesus and there are reindeer, and snowmen and sure it’s not just for your birthday, but it’s sorta like getting invited to Prom by the most popular kid in school.
But sure, there’s some practical advice for celebrating a December Birthday:
- Don’t be an asshole. Don’t tell the kid it sucks to be born in December and that they’re getting shafted. Mostly because it’s not true. And if it was, would they know any better? Are you the kind of Scrooge who tells kids Santa isn’t real, either? Don’t ruin Christmas. Don’t ruin birthdays. Got it?
- Make your own traditions for celebrating birthdays vs. Christmas (or your Winter Holiday). My birthday is on the 13th, and so in my family we always waited to put the Christmas tree up until December 14th so that it didn’t feel like “my day” was being overshadowed. Since Potamus’ birthday is the 20th, I’m not sure if we’ll follow that same tradition, but we will definitely ask him how he feels when he gets older (we did the Christmas tree tradition because one year they did it earlier and I felt like my birthday was forgotten). Don’t go to birthday dinner and then do Santa pictures on the way home. Keep them separate.
- Wrap gifts in birthday paper. There are Christmas presents and Birthday presents. And wrapping paper matters.
- Be pro-active with school parties. Celebrate right before school lets out for break, cause it’s WAY harder to rustle kids and families up for birthday parties when they aren’t all in school together. Send invites well in advance. When I was in later elementary school my mom would host a sleepover or after school birthday party on the Friday school let out. Gave parents an excuse to go Christmas shopping before picking my friend’s up. And we all just rode the school bus together to my house, played, and had a blast. I never thought it was weird that it wasn’t a party on a Saturday or Sunday.
- Let the birthday kid open gifts when he gets them. Package comes in the mail a week early? Celebrate! By far my favorite part of having a winter birthday was for once I didn’t have to wait forever. I had to wait to open Christmas gifts, because that was a family day, but birthday gifts? I got to open those on the 8th, or the 11th, or the 16th, whenever they came in. It added to the magic.
Embrace the magic, because December babies are full of magic. So I nodded politely at the grocery store cashier, and moved on my merry way.
Any other advice you might have for holiday time babies?
I’ve been looking forward to this concert for the past year, but like with anything a toddler mom does, getting her butt out the door for an 8pm concert takes some work. The breakdown looks something like this:
6:30am: wake up, feed kid yogurt and watch Jake & the Neverland Pirates
7:30am: leave house
8am: dropkid off at daycare
3:30 pm: leave to pick kid up from daycare
4:30 pm: pick kid up from daycare and drop off at grandma’s house
6:30 pm: drink a pitcher of beer with Boof at this super awesome pizza place
7:30 pm: hop on the monorail to Key Arena
8:00 pm: squeeze in one more beer pre-show
It was fucking awesome. The combination of 3 time weekly yoga PLUS weekly Friday night dance parties with Mari and her 2 boys, has left me in good enough shape to dance and sing along to all of my favorite songs…for over two hours. Okay, yeah, I was tired. I’m STILL tired, since we didn’t get home until well after midnight (and of course I didn’t fall asleep until well after 1 am…but was up with Potamus at 6:30 like clockwork).
The concert was the birthday/anniversary kickoff weekend. I’m looking forward to two days in a hotel, sleeping in crisp sheets, and having zero obligations to speak of. What was so lovely about the whole concert experience, was being there for his final concert of this tour. And it’s his home town. And it’s my hometown. And when he sings about The Ave and Dick’s drive in and Dave Niehaus, it’s things that I resonate with. They’re my hometown memories too. Not just speaking to an era or generation, but to this very specific niche of the world. I feel connected in a way that I don’t with other musical artists.
Last night I was just me. A woman enjoying a concert with her man. Dancing. Drinking. Singing. For five hours I didn’t have any obligations but just to be there, in the moment, having a fantastic time. And I did.
Yesterday Potamus turned 11 months. No other time in his life is he going to be celebrated every month, so I like to go all-out. And by that, I mean, I sat on the couch and snapped a few pictures of him doing his thing…which, predictably, included the new skill of walking with his walker toy.
Yeah, proud mama right here! My baby’s walking! So what if he needs a walker, there are plenty of grown-ass adults that need walkers!
Another new skill is: being completely obsessed with my writing while on the laptop. Proof:
Today my adoptive parents trek across Snoqualmie Pass to begin Thanksgiving prep. I’m mostly excited about spending time with them, making the pecan pie and the raspberry jello, and showing off Potamus’s new walking pasttime. I am excited for family time and rolls and drinking 6 bottles of sparkling cider.
I am nervous about having to navigate the whole jealousy issue. And I’m nervous about trying to placate my crazy ex-sister-in-law as she drops off her daughter for my adoptive brother’s custody holiday. She’s nuts, and I dislike having to deal with her.
Yesterday I approved Boof’s invitation wording for our combined 30 & 1 birthday party in December. It was so sweet, how he put a picture of me and Potamus with the wording:
“Come Celebrate 30 & 1 with Mother and Son”
Narrowing the guest list down to friends was the easy part. But the whole family thing gets trickier. And as an adoptee, I tend to go between the opposite extremes of trying to please everybody or saying “screw it” and doing my own thing. But with a certain limit to how many people will fit into the rented room.
My challenge isn’t my biological dad, he and his family are a given.
My adoptive parents are going to be out of town and so we are doing a belated birthday bash right before Christmas.
It’s my biological mom’s side of the family that I’m worried about. Mostly because her brain is fried by all the years of drugs and alchol (not even to mention, she still might be using). And her parents are sweet, but overbearing and, how can I say it nicely…weird. But my half-siblings on that side are pretty cool, I mostly jive with my brother, but if I were to just invite him, or just invite the two of them, then are feelings going to be hurt. But most importantly, I have an excellent connection on-line with my great-uncle. He and I seem to just be totally simpatico, and he lives in Canada and might be down in time for the birthday, but would the world go all cattywampus if I invited him, but not his brother (my grandpa)?
I want to be true to myself and just invite my biological half-siblings and my paternal great-uncle. But I’m afraid of the ramifications.
And this is why I wasn’t ready to be in reunion at 18. People used to ask me about when I wanted to meet my biological family, but I always put it off saying “well, I’m in college, and it’s already complicated enough.” Gee whiz, at 30 I still don’t have it figured out.
Today is my adoptive father’s birthday. Ten days ago was my biological dad’s birthday. I have failed to do anything to celebrate these birthdays for the past few years. Even with setting a reminder on my phone, I have still managed to forget and then send a “crap, it was your birthday and I missed it,” text (for my biological dad), or a “happy birthday, the card’s in the mail” text to my adoptive dad (which then means I have to run to the story, buy a card and mail it ASAP or he’ll get suspicious as why it’s taking so long.
The subjects of birthdays are hard for me, though, since the idea of celebrating a birth reminds me of the time that I was born and then promptly given to strangers to be raised. I’ve hard that my fellow adoptees feel similarly. And November is the month of dad birthdays, which means we are heading into December and my own, and Potamus’s, which I hope will be fun, but I’ve already begun to feel the emotional meltdowns happening.
But this isn’t about me. This is about my dads. Happy Birthday to both of you!