Today is a big day in the Short house. We are celebrating Emily’s 21st birthday. My Mom always made a big deal about birthdays. She always went above and beyond to help us kids feel special on our day. When I had kids, I wanted to do the same. It was a tradition I wanted to continue. I wish I could say I have done it gracefully and seamlessly.
As Emily grew and missed the age-appropriate milestones, I struggled. Each year that passed was a reminder of what she could not do and that she was different. I would be sad on her birthday and go to a dark place in my head about them. I did not approach the day she was born with joy and gratitude.
As Emily got older and her behaviors were not as easy to manage in social situations, invitations to parties from her peers dwindled. I took it personally. First, her developmental delays stole the joy of her birthday celebration. Now, I was no longer able to celebrate her typical peers’ birthdays either. In my mind, it was big, emotional, and full of drama.
Family and friends showered Justin with gifts, cards, and phone calls to recognize his birthday. Those same people did not take the time to do the same for Emily. My heart would hurt for her. I made it mean they did not value her or care. Wow, talk about adding a dose of optional suffering into some busted thoughts!
Emily does not comprehend the concept of her birthday. She is not counting cards, calls, or texts. The drama had nothing to do with Emily and everything to do with me. Over the last few years, I have learned to release my expectations of other people. I threw away the manual on milestones and expectations for Emily’s progress and achievements. I started to practice acceptance and release control. Once I did that, I was able to create more joy every day and extra on birthdays.
As she turns 21, we plan to celebrate as big as she will tolerate. Emily will have cake (my Mom insisted cake was mandatory). Emily will be showered with extra love and attention. She will be seen, loved, and heard. I will not shower her with gifts because that is not Emily’s thing. Emily is a Diva, but she is not a material girl.
I can expect moments of sadness to come this week, but they no longer drown out the joy of celebrating Emily’s day. I appreciate the beauty in her growth as well as my own. That is a beautiful thing to celebrate every day.