My parents treated me to an afternoon at a spa, because what else would a mom of three who suddenly finds herself knee-deep in middle age want? It was a dream come true.
I started with a pedicure. The nail technician asked me about my kids— after all, I’d worn my mom clogs to the appointment. We chatted about the local schools and the best places in town to find a leotard for a toddler.
I selected a demure shade of rosy brown with just a hint of shimmer.
Moving on to the manicure, we discussed her family. She was recently divorced and sharing custody of her twin girls (they loved for their mom to paint their nails). I tried hard not to fall into counselor speak and use words like “coparenting,” “healing,” and “parental roles.” I empathized.
During the facial— what should have been the most relaxing portion of my day— I pressed her for tips about my new crow’s feet and age spots (moisturizer and exfoliation, if you’re interested) and made a joke about being over the hill.
That’s when she asked me something I couldn’t recall being asked by a non-family member for years: What did I want for my birthday?
As a mom I’m used to talking birthday wishes. They usually come in the form of Barbies, bicycles, and the newest video games. They’re usually presented wrapped lovingly in age-appropriate paper and bows, with favorite cartoon characters donning the cards. We don’t do elaborate birthdays in my house, but we do make an effort to make the day special.
As soon as I had children, the idea of a birthday wish for myself dramatically changed.
Like a child, I, too, used to focus on the material: that new pair of strappy heels or that item from the store window which would be perfect for a Friday night. Now I spend my birthday relaxation time seeking advice about wrinkles and bonding with a woman about her divorce. After all, just because I was wearing a robe and had a face covered in seaweed mask, I was still a mom.
When you’re a mom, your birthday wishes are simple: a stress-free day. A home-cooked meal prepared by someone other than yourself. Hand-drawn birthday cards with backwards crayon letters, a smiley-faced sun in the upper right corner.
But more than that, you wish for your kids: Potty training victories and As on spelling tests. You wish for them to gain the skills to conquer whatever small battles they’re facing. You wish for their happiness and health.
When I blew out the birthday candle this year, my 35th, I said a silent prayer. The smoke curled above my family gathered around the dining room table, and that’s when I knew that my mother’s wish had already come true.
Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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