When Birthdays Don’t Go As Planned (and it’s still OK)

tysbdayThis was the first year that Boog “got” the concept of his birthday. And, in fact, he started talking about it 3 months before the big day. Typically, if he heard we were having a party or going to a party his face would completely light up and he would ask “A Party? My birthday party?” (I wish I could capture the inflection and sound of his voice – WAY too cute!)

We tried to help him understand the concept of time by responding “No, Boog. Your birthday is after Christmas”. Of course, immediately after Christmas he began saying “it’s my birthday now”. So, to further help the concept of time we got a calendar that he marked off every day until the big birthday day.

In getting ready for his birthday we talked about it a lot. Which friends to invite, what theme to go with (we went with the Cars movie theme), what presents he wanted (a bowling set was his only request), what type of cake to have (strawberry with yellow and blue frosting was requested for school), what to do at the party (he wanted to just play; we got a singing lady since he loves to dance and sing).

We even had all sorts of people coming in for the big day. Grandparents from Florida and RI. Greatgrandfather from England. Friends from Delaware and New Jersey. Uncle from DC. We had 14 people sleeping in our house the night before the party! Heck. It was a party even before the party!

Then it was here. The Big Party! We had balloons, decorations, presents, friends, relatives, and even a piñata! The one thing we didn’t have though was an excited little boy.

Boog went to bed super late (too much excitement with 14 people in the house) and then got up early. So he was one tired little guy. I tried to get him to go back to sleep. I tried to get him to rest. But no such luck. Instead he was pretty much a zombie by the time the party started. He made it through the music (although no dancing- he was too busy yawning). He hit the piñata. Then he hit the wall. He didn’t even eat his cake. The proverbial “icing on the cake” was when he ASKED to go up to bed.

That’s right. My little guy who was SOOOO excited about his birthday for so long went to sleep before the party was even over! I was crushed. I just wanted him to be happy and enjoy his day. I built up my own expectations and while it was a good day, it wasn’t great.

It made me think, am I setting myself up for a lifetime of being crushed? Will I build up my expectations and hopes for every event and milestone; only to have them not live up to my dreams? And even worse, will Boog’s big events not live up to HIS expectations. The poor boy! I just want him to be happy and suddenly I feared this wouldn’t be the case (OK. I admit. I was a bit dramatic, but it was a big deal!)

In the midst of all my angst (and after Boog woke up from a 2+ hour nap), I looked over at him playing in the living room with his new toys and running around with his father and granparents. He had a look of total glee on his face. It was then that I realized that my expectations and his expectations won’t always align. And even if things don’t go exactly as I planned, it’s OK. His birthday was exactly what he wanted and he couldn’t be happier.

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6 Responses to “When Birthdays Don’t Go As Planned (and it’s still OK)”

  1. Monica March 5, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    So true! What makes them happy is usually not what we imagined. I’m so glad he had a wonderful day. Brianna started planning her next birthday party about 1 week after the last. I’m finally to the point I tell her I will not discuss it until after Easter. Her bday is June 11. She will be 6. Kiersten will be 4 (May 31) and hasn’t mentioned it. She loves a good party but it doesn’t ahve to be hers. Has Boog started planning his little sister’s big day yet :)

  2. Jennifer Y. March 6, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    Darn, we missed all the fun! Isn’t that always how it goes? I’ve definitely learned a lot over the past 2 years about adjusting my expectations:)

    Take the Christmas cookie thing… I had this big plan in my head that T and I were going spend the day making cookies together. I would measure, he would mix–it would be perfect. He was interested for about 30 seconds and then decided to eat all of the cookie toppings! Then, he wanted to go play hockey or watch a movie. I was also crushed. Then I realized how ridiculous I was. He’s 2 for goodness sake and he just wants to have fun! Oh, and PS, you and lots of other mommy friends confirmed just that–needed to hear it:)

  3. Amy March 6, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    It’s just like the classic story of when you buy the big fancy present you just “know” they are going to love, and all they want to play with is the empty box (I have the big empty box in my living room right now – it came with the dog’s new bed in it, and is now a semi-permanent fixture). At the end of the day, the only real question is whether they had fun. Boog clearly had fun, and all the guests had fun with him too — just not on the actual day/time of his party.

  4. Fran March 9, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    Your son loved the weeks he spent planning his party. For weeks, he was so excited to pick the theme, icing color, gift, and more. Those are the special moments too. It’s not just about the final product, the party. It’s also about the glee in his eyes every time he spent preparing for and discussing the big event. Maybe he didn’t have as much fun as you wanted at the actual party, but he will definitely remember all those details he had planned. And like Amy’s child (in the reply above), Boog actually loves playing in the empty boxes!!!

  5. Amy March 9, 2009 at 3:31 pm #

    Thanks for all your thoughts! You’re right that life is more than just the big presents and big events — heck, more of the things that we’ll remember will be all the little things. It’s that kind of stuff that’s to be treasured – just as much (or more than) all the big things.


  6. Hanz Lobell May 29, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    This is very interesting. I think I might give it a try.