Someone once advised me to set my expectations low so I would never be disappointed. Not being one to subscribe to that theory, I often imagine that holidays, vacations and birthdays will be family events full of laughter, appreciation, thankfulness and peace. So when I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, I expected it to be a day filled with kind words, no tears, no fighting and no complaining. Of course, being a parent now for eight years I should have known better.
The morning started off perfectly, the kids quickly got ready for school and we had an enjoyable pancake breakfast prepared by my husband. Then the kids decided that they wanted to give me my presents before they left for school because they couldn’t wait to see what I got … and this is where the day took a turn for the worse.
Present number one was a bottle of sunscreen … wait I promise the gifts do get better. Present number two was skimpy bikini (picked out by my husband) that I immediately thought I would never have the courage to wear outside of my bathroom. Still, the fact that he thought I could pull off the look got me wondering if I could and so I contemplated for a moment keeping the bathing suit. But, quickly my daughter brought me back to reality. After looking at the swimsuit and the catalog that came with it she says, “Mommy you don’t look like the models in the catalog.” My judgment clouded by my high expectations for a feel-good day, I asked why. “Because those models are sexy,” she replied. From that moment I knew the bathing suit was going back to the store.
Nevertheless, with the sunscreen and bikini as clues, I had an idea where this birthday gift theme was going. Next, I unwrapped a brochure that revealed a sandy beach, palm trees and crystal clear ocean. It was a five-day trip to Aruba. In order to keep this gift a surprise to me, my husband hadn’t told my kids about it. So, when my 5-year-old son realized what it was, his face quickly lit up and he let out a big “YEESSS, we are ALL going to Aruba!” Unfortunately, the real surprise for him (and my daughter) was that Mom would be taking this trip with three of her friends – no children (and no husband) were included. Tears and cries of agony quickly followed this revelation, making it very hard for me to jump up and down and celebrate my soon-to be-had five days of freedom … that would have to wait till they went to school.
Once off to school, I did enjoy a nice quiet day. I can’t even remember exactly what I did, but I know it did not involve laundry, food shopping, cleaning or work. I do remember that the time went too quickly. That evening we celebrated with a family dinner out that included the usual bickering, a spilled drink and two unfinished kids meals.
Once in bed, my daughter looked up at me and sweetly said, “Mommy at least you don’t have to worry about being old anymore because the day is almost over.” Sadly, I told her that tomorrow I would be even older. Comfortingly she replied, “But you only think about how old you are on your birthday and I don’t think you look old at all.” I’m not sure if she said it to make me feel good or if she really meant it, but it was the perfect ending to a day that ultimately met my high expectations.