The candles were lit. My daughter looked around at everyone standing by her. A smile creeping on her face.
“Everyone ready?” I ask.
The kids all shake their heads yes and we all break out in song, “Happy birthday…”
And my daughter bursts out in joyful laughter.
Yesterday was my third daughter’s birthday. She turned four. It was a busy day for our family. Wednesday is CCD, my wife attended a funeral during the day, my oldest son has a different schedule because of finals, and we went out to eat for my daughter’s birthday. All day my little girl kept asking if it was, “Happy Birthday Time.” I thought she meant if she could open presents. She received one of her presents in the morning and opened her other present after dinner, but she kept asking about the Happy Birthday Time while the older kids were at CCD. I told her we would have cake when the kids got back and that she had opened all her presents. But she kept asking. I didn’t get it until I saw her eyes explode with joy as we sang “Happy Birthday” to her.
It wasn’t the presents, or the cake; it was that moment when she was the center of our attention. Where we expressed our love for her in a simple song. She laughed the whole time. She couldn’t blow out her candles because of her laughter. This was the third moment in the last couple of weeks that has highlighted the importance of our actions (and words) in building up (or tearing down) another person.
Example number two happened last weekend as I was getting groceries. I want to preface the example with the knowledge that as a parent I have had bad days and I hope this situation for the mother was just one of those days.
I was shopping for groceries alone as we tried to get the little ones some rest. As I turned into an aisle I noticed a boy about nine years old sitting at one of the booths the store has for eating from the deli. Didn’t think too much of it and continued up the aisle.
“Can I shop with you now, mom?” I knew it was the boy.
“Does it look like I’m at the end of the store?” an annoyed and exasperated voice responded.
“Please, can I shop with you?” His voice pleaded. As a dad the part that makes me feel ashamed when I lose my temper is how much my kids still just want my love and attention.
The mom’s voice softens a little, “OK, but no more issues.”
As life has it, I crossed paths with this mother and son in every aisle for the rest of my time in the store. And yes, they even ended up behind me in the checkout aisle.
The mother’s voice might have softened at first, but soon I heard her bark at her son… in every aisle. The situation brought up a dark time in my life. In junior high my mother had a live-in boyfriend that would put me down whenever he could. But the worst was when I would have to help him with projects. He was an outstanding handyman. He could fix any problem in the house. He built some incredible cabinets and other things for my mom. Even though I was “the worst #### kid ever” I always had to help. I could not do anything right. It was a very dark two years of my life. Even today, I have a hard time doing handyman things around the house.
Back to the store. I tried to smile and just make a positive interaction with the two. But, it was the same situation in each aisle. The mom’s voice covering the child in negativity. And the boy doing everything he could to make her happy.
The third situation has challenged my own patience, as our littlest one has not gotten a consistent schedule through the night or morning. It is not fun changing diapers at two in the morning, or knowing that the family will be running late because the little one is up earlier than normal. That means I have to feed her before I can get into my morning routine.
But, no matter the time, my little girl lights up with a smile when I place her on the changing table. Whether it is two in the morning, or when I try to get a couple of sips of coffee before I feed her. I have created a new habit of kissing her on the forehead whenever I pick her up in the middle of the night. It helps me remember to keep my frustration at bay.
Every child, heck, in all honesty everybody wants to know they are loved, that they are the center of your attention. Even if it is for just one song.
I hope you have a “Happy Birthday” kind of day.