Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, right? For many years, my birthday was just another ordinary day. There would still be babies to be fed, crying toddlers to be carried, squabbles to be settled. And a dinner celebration would still entail lots of work taking care of them. But I didn’t mind, because that’s how it is with young kids. After about a decade of such non-existent birthdays, when they were finally older, I decided to go out for lunch with my friends and give myself a break. Then it extended to lunch followed by a peaceful day of shopping all by myself. Strangely, after a few years of that, I started to wonder what on earth was I doing by myself on my birthday. When I saw families together, I wanted to go back and be with my kids. But after half an hour of being with them, I wanted to be alone.
The hubs also told me that the kids were asking how come mummy spends the most part of her birthday with her friends instead of us. So this year, I figured I should be able to spend an enjoyable day with them as the oldest is already 15. The weekend before my birthday, the hubs prepared a lovely BBQ and we had a nice little party.
|Our fave salmon dish|
On my birthday itself, the kids and I decided that we would watch a movie and take some fun photos at the photo booth. The day started well, with homemade breakfast, wishes and very thoughtful presents from my girls.
|Earl grey cupcake baked by #1|
When I asked #5 if he had made a card for me, he said, “Oh, it’s your birthday?” and ran off to make me a Lego card. It was really cute and could even be opened and closed!
|#5’s special birthday card to me|
We went for lunch, then watched Malificent, and we laughed ourselves silly fooling around before the movie started. After the show, we hopped over to the photo booth and that’s when I got upset with the 3 older girls. One of them doesn’t like taking pictures, so after 1 shot, she refused to take anymore even though I asked her to. Then when it was time to decorate the photos, one of them wanted to draw ridiculous things on the photos which I didn’t allow her to. And then the other quarrelled with another about decorating the photos. That was it. I yelled at them, that just for 1 day in a year, couldn’t they get along without quarrelling and accede to my simple requests when I do so much for them the whole year round.
I did some soul-searching. Was I being unrealistic to expect that from the 4 older ones? And why was I so angry? This little incident must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Was my anger fuelled by other issues? Perhaps that I had spent 15 years of my life taking care of them and I expected gratitude in return? Or that my every thought is always for the good of them, yet they mostly see it as mummy nagging or being mean.
The next few days, I was angry at them no more. But the anger was replaced by a heavy heart, though I couldn’t put my finger on the reason. At lunch, the younger ones asked me to play ‘I-spy’ but I didn’t feel like it. When we got home, they asked me to play Monopoly with them, but I couldn’t bring myself to oblige them. At dinner, they kept rambling and expected me to reply, but I just wasn’t in the mood to entertain them. I was very quiet the entire day, and sat around them but had no energy to respond to them. And looking at their disappointed faces, I felt miserable.
Being a mum, it is natural to give them your attention when they ask you so earnestly to. To play Lego with them even when you would rather not, to fold origami when you struggle with the intricate steps (and end up with a headache), to force yourself to get up and read to them when you almost fell asleep putting another child to sleep. And it is draining. I looked at the younger ones, then at the older ones. I shudder to see the cycle happening to the rest of them. You keep giving and giving, but sometimes the well runs dry. Every decision I make, both big and small, are always made after considering their needs. But when they morph into teenagers, they suddenly become separate entities from you and sometimes say hurtful things and are stubborn with their own ideas. When the kids are young, even how hard things were, when your little one puts her chubby little arms around you and smile at you with all her heart and soul, all the tiredness is forgotten. But now that the kids are teenagers, there is no cute face or chubby arms to remind you that all your sacrifices are worth it. In it’s place, there are faces buried in digital gadgets, closed doors, and unspoken words.
The scary thing is that it’s not that I need a break from them to re-charge. That is easy to fix. I just had a long and lovely holiday away from them and I was re-charged. And everyday I take time out from the kids, be it a walk, quiet time alone, or having coffee with a friend. This time, it is something more that is bugging me. Was I completely drained from taking care of so many of them for so many years? And yet the outcome is not what I envisioned? It felt like I had run a long and gruelling race yet the finishing line was murky. Was I feeling sorry for myself for this thankless job?
The hubs took me out for a very lovely dinner but still I was troubled. Oh, how difficult it is to keep sacrificing selflessly without expecting anything in return. It’s been a long while since I felt down like this. Maybe I should just embrace the sadness. For I know it will soon pass. Maybe I’m on the cusp of the next phase of the motherhood journey. Of dealing with teenagers. Of raising young adults. Of sleepless nights. Of heartbreak.
I have deep respect for mothers who have emerged from this journey unscathed and who have kids who are unscarred.
Perhaps next year, I should go on a holiday on my birthday. Because if I hear them bickering, it will make me angry, and lead to another round of rumination. What is it about birthdays? Is it just me?