I started counting down to my next birthday… the day after that birthday. It was the most exciting day to look forward to with our many traditions. One of my favorites was choosing ANY restaurant I wanted to have dinner. My birthday always seemed to last longer than just one day. Between celebrating with my parents and brothers, then being taken out by my grandma, and, telling our server each night that week we were celebrating my birthday, it was the BEST time of year.
“Oh, here they come…” was the famous line my parents always said when they spotted the waitstaff coming to deliver a decadent piece of chocolate cake shining bright with a candle. The desserts varied, but, my favorite one of them all was the Reese’s peanut butter cup ice cream cake. My mouth still waters just from thinking about it.
Looking back, my memories of my childhood birthday celebrations revolved around great food, delicious desserts, and endless treats. Today, my middle son turns 4. And, as exciting of a time it is, it is, also, a very emotional and challenging day. Austin has severe food allergies. He cannot eat wheat, eggs, dairy, peanuts, and treenuts. Ordering and eating out is either impossible or a significant risk (even when a restaurant assures us they are careful.) So what saddens me the most is that if I even asked him where he would want to have dinner to celebrate his birthday, he wouldn’t have an answer.
I know that he is so fortunate to have his health, a loving family, and a bright future ahead. However, as his mother who associates birthdays with an overload of food and treats, my heart breaks for him.
He’s no fool. He decided he wants to have a Curious George theme for his party, so I have been working tirelessly to find and get as many goodies as I can, other than food. Today, his ballon bouquet came in the mail. On the HUGE, center balloon was Curious George enjoying a mile high ice cream cone. As my son said, “Mommy, Curious George is eating ice cream,” I slightly cringed. “Yes, he is sweetie.” What I wanted to say was, “Austin, I am so sorry you aren’t able to have life’s most treasured treats, like ice cream.” But, I have to put on a smile, convince him that food allergies make him special, and explain that he can have so many other things.
We won’t be going out for dinner every night this week to celebrate his birthday. We won’t be telling the waitstaff at restaurants we are celebrating his birthday in hopes of getting a complimentary dessert, accompanied with the Happy Birthday song. We won’t be doing many things that I deemed exciting and special on my birthdays as a kid.
What we will be doing, though, is creating a tradition special for him. We will shower him with balloons. We will have him unwrap super, exciting birthday presents. We will hand him the most interactive Hallmark cards that sing songs, shine lights, and have stickers inside. Our family will go to his classroom to do a special activity, in honor of his birthday, with his friends. And, finally, we will let him wolf down all the safe popsicles and icees that he so desires. Because these are the things that make him feel special.
Turning the focus from food to other pleasures is actually a great thing for me. He is only 4, but he has taught me an exceptional amount in his little life so far. I can’t wait to continue making memories, celebrating, and enjoying life with him in ways I never knew!