Szyperski: Simple, it’s what I wantWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t find any part of the year to be particularly relaxing. The last week of October, however, is no doubt the least relaxed of all my weeks. What used to be an exciting seven-day lead-in to my Nov. 1 birthday as a child has evolved into a week so crazy it makes me nearly forget about my birthday altogether.
It’s not just my birthday I have to worry about. My mom’s birthday has been the same day as mine for as long as I can remember, and my daughter, Laney, decided to grace us with her worldly presence six weeks earlier than expected on Oct. 28, 2005. Throw in a little thing called Halloween with all its revelry and you have the perfect ingredients for making a big ol’ batch of overwhelmed stew. In the last couple of years we have also added in a huge dollop of travel soccer just to see how far I can be pushed to the edge without tumbling over.
This year, to stay in line with our life theme of each year’s chaos somehow always managing to trump the year before, my son Jack’s big soccer finale tournament fell on the same weekend as Laney’s birthday. Moving her family party to the weekend before was no big deal, but it was another story convincing our little homebody that waking up in a hotel room in a random city on your birthday due to something you have no interest in is perfectly acceptable and even exciting. She saw right through it.
As a mother, I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled about the unbirthday-like state of my child’s birthday. When I think about Laney’s predicament, I can’t help but recall the wise words of Kevin McCallister in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”: “Who wants to spend Christmas in a tropical climate anyway?” Or, in Laney’s case, who wants to spend her birthday at her brother’s soccer tournament anyway?
I did the best I could to normalize her birthday by staying up long after everyone was fast asleep and decorating our generic hotel room until it felt worthy of my favorite 7-year-old’s special day. I wasn’t sure if the sleep deprivation would be worth it until I was awakened early the next morning by Laney whispering in my ear, “Why does our room look like this?” “Do you like it?!” I asked with hopeful anticipation. “No.”
Yep, definitely not worth it.
To add insult to Laney’s birthday injustice, it was cold, windy and wet for all three soccer games. The only saving graces were the hotel pool and the fact that Jack’s team didn’t move on to play even later into her birthday in even nastier weather. By noon we were off to Burger King, Laney’s cuisine of choice for her birthday lunch.
For some reason, my husband and I first tried to insist there were better options out there — Red Robin, Friendly’s or Dave and Buster’s, a local play zone. As Laney continued to insist she knew what she wanted, it finally occurred to me that she did. She was as sure that she wanted a birthday meal fit for a Burger King as she was that she’d rather be spending her birthday cozy at home instead of in chilly, rainy and unfamiliar Akron.
I should have known that simple was the way to go. In addition to purchasing her a case for the Kindle Fire she bought with all of her birthday money, I had only one present ready for Laney to open the morning of her birthday. It was a Hello Kitty makeup case she had spotted at a store almost a year ago. I bought it for Christmas last year but ended up not needing it, so it sat at the bottom of a storage bin for the past 11 months. I pulled it out, wrapped it up and gave it to Laney knowing she would likely remember having wanted it and be perfectly content opening only that. She did and she was.
She knew what she wanted and was happy to receive it. If only we could all live life so simply.
When I think of how little it actually took to make my little girl happy, I can’t help but realize a couple of things. It’s much more important to really listen to what our children are asking for than to give them what we think they should want, and, with all of the craziness that tends to surround my own birthday, simple is quite nice.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.