I turned 41 yesterday. I'm keeping that sentence short because really, knowing that I've been on this earth for that long simply blows my mind. I had a chance yesterday to reflect on some of those years I've lived, and thankfully, my trip down memory lane produced mostly good thoughts, positive memories that reminded me how grateful I am to be alive.
But on our birthday, of all days, we expect sunshine and happiness and flowers and smiles. Maybe it's how our society is structured. I mean, usually, it's not all about us, as individuals, but a birthday is different. A birthday is the one day that we're allowed to bask in ourselves, so I don't think it's too much to ask for a few hours of joy.
So when I woke up to thunderstorms, I wondered how the day would go. And when I realized that my usual two requests for my birthday--to go for a run and to have someone else make dinner--would have to go unheeded, I really wondered how the day would go. (Just as an aside, I'm going to get my pelvis, the reason I can't run, imaged next week. Apparently, my pubic symphysis might truly be injured. I'm sure you are fully aware that I will let you know the outcome. And I had writing group last night--a good present to myself. So I had to cook dinner before I left so that I could call myself a responsible and loving parent.)
But I'm not one to dwell on negativity, so I went about my business. I dropped the girls off at school and headed to Kroger to pick up a few more items for dinner. (It was completely possible that we'd have a few extra at dinner, as two people were scheduled to visit for a few hours between lunch time and the time I left for writing group. I wanted to make sure I had enough potatoes.) I threw in the laundry and added some data to the PTO spread sheet. I wrote a few paragraphs of my newest novel and helped with first grade lunch. I even carved out enough time to sit and read a book--my birthday present to myself. By 1:15 pm, the day had gone well, despite the rain, despite the lack of running.
And then, the proverbial shit hit the fan.
My guests arrived and mentioned that they had traveled through storms to get to our house. I reminded them that I had called and told them not to come because of the rain. They complained about the two jumpy dogs. I reminded them that Shadow is excitable and that Toby is still, technically a puppy. They told me they'd have enough time to stay for 20 or 30 minutes--not through dinner like I expected, like I had told the kids would be the case. I didn't remind them of what they had told me. Because in one instant, my chest felt like it was crushing my heart. A few tears pricked behind my eyelids and I walked away, into the kitchen, to catch my bearings.
How had this happened, again? How had I let these people disappoint me again? How did I not recognize that their signature move--to come in, visit, and leave early--would be taken out of their repertoire and thrown at me, again? I know why I was blindsided. I thought they were here to see me. I thought they were here to see my kids. I thought they were here to say, Happy Birthday. But they weren't. They came in, had me sign what they needed me to sign, and when that was done, when I had served their purpose, they said, "Say hi to the kids," packed up, and left.
This wasn't about me. It wasn't about my children. It was about them, plain and simple.
And I'm so tired of this behavior. I'm tired of the wacky shit that goes on and the fact that they don't listen to me and what I have to say. I'm tired of being beaten down and thrown around emotionally. I'm tired of trying to explain to my children why people who should be a greater part of their life really just aren't. And apparently don't care to be. Because this was a perfect time for them to stop, smell the roses, and enjoy a few moments with four kids I think are pretty special.
After 41 years, I thought I'd built enough walls to keep myself safe and warm. I thought I'd learned how to handle other people's actions. I truly believed that no matter what, it would be difficult to hurt me. But as FRN pointed out to me, after I emailed about my complete and utter shock, the actions of these people hit me hard because of their approach. "We're coming to see you and the kids," they had said. Emphasis on the kids. And when, at the end of the day, I would have to tell the kids that these people didn't care enough to stick around and say hi, give out hugs, or sit and read a book, I'd be the one cracking their little hearts into pieces. Not them, but me. And I'm a momma bear like no other. Do what you want to me, but don't go after my children. And certainly don't make me the messenger of such bad news.
You might wonder what I said to the kids. I don't condone lying, but this time, I did it. I had no way to make them understand why the people who visited didn't care enough about anyone other than themselves to stay and rest for a bit. So I blamed the storms and said they hadn't come. I saw a flash of disappointment in the kids' eyes, but it was so much lighter than the pain and hurt I imagine I'd see if I'd told them the truth. And I will tell them, someday. Maybe when I recount to them how much I learned about life on my 41st birthday.