Change is hard. I understand that – my baby just started kindergarten. It is often difficult to accept time’s relentless march forward. But I really didn’t expect Matthew to have such a hard time accepting a good change – like turning six!
After dinner on Friday evening, we drove to my parents’ condo in Port Ludlow (about 90 minutes from here) for Matthew’s birthday/Labor Day weekend. Zach had gone over with them earler (on Wednesday night), so the boys were super excited to see each other. In the car on the way there, Mike and I reminded Matthew that the next day was September 5th. And what is September 5th? That’s right, it’s your birthday.
The next morning – the aforementioned September 5th of Matthew Martin birthday fame – rolls around all icky and drippy, cold, dark and wet. Nice three-day weekend weather. When I come out into the living room, Matthew is curled up on the sofa with Green Bear. I grab him and put him on my lap (Matthew…not Green Bear…though Green Bear came along for the ride).
“Do you know what today is?” I ask Matthew.
“No,” he says. Hmmm, very peculiar; it’s not like me or one of my offspring to forget a birthday.
“Today is September 5th!” I declare, awaiting his burst of excitement. All I get is a saddish, blankish stare.
“Matthew! What’s September 5th?!”
“Today’s my birthday?” Matthew asks quietly, incredulously.
“YES! Today you’re six! You turned six at 5:05 this morning. You’re six now!”
“But,” Matthew’s eyes start to turn into watery pools and his mouth gets that familiar sad square shape complete with bottom lip a-quiver, “But I didn’t know. No, I’m not six. I didn’t know.”
“What do you mean you didn’t know, silly? We reminded you in the car last night that today is your birthday.”
Matthew’s quiet sniffles turn into a more focused, determined cry.
“I’m not six! But I didn’t know!” I stare at my child disbelieving. Does he not WANT his birthday? Does he not want to get older? Does he not want chocolate cake? What the heck?
After some more back and forth of I’m not six – yes, sweet boy, you are – and it’s not my birthday – why, yes it is! I finally get it...or at least I think I get it.
“Are you just upset ‘cuz you don’t feel different? Do you not feel six?” Matthew grunts out a mm-hmm and slowly nods his head.
“Did you think that you would wake up in the morning and know that you were six?” I asked.
“Yes,” Matthew whimpers.
I sigh. How to explain one of the big disappointments in life – especially to one having to learn it so young? Your birthday is actually just another day. It doesn’t feel any different from the day before nor will you feel that much different in six months from now. But the anniversary marking the date of your entrance into the world is here. He’s right. It should feel a heck of a lot bigger and better than just another rainy morning.
Once Matthew had accepted that it was, in fact, his birthday and he was, in fact, six years old, things started to look up. Zach had helped my mom decorate a castle-cake complete with Lego soldier guys. (I’ve already accepted that I should never attempt to match my mom’s birthday cake making skill. Growing up, I had everything from a princess (like a Barbie IN the cake and the cake was her beautiful, full ball gown) to a cake that looked like a watermelon. In fourth grade, she brought dirt cake to school for my birthday and had a boy in tears thinking he really was going to have to eat dirt (as she dished it out of the flower pot with a trowel), and then in 8th grade my cake looked like the famous domed roof of Holy Names Academy – the all girls’ high school I was ecstatic to attend the coming fall. Needless-to-say, I don’t compete with Mom’s cake-making skills, so when possible, I leave the cake-making to her.
Thankfully, by the time cake and presents time had rolled around Matthew was ready – although hesitant at first – to accept change. It was a rough transition, but so far, he reports that six is a pretty good year.