Birthdays. They must be perfect. Nobody ever said that that’s a rule, but it is.
If you have children, you want them to remember birthdays as their best days ever, don’t you? And realistically, as a parent of small kids, how many days are likely to run smoothly enough to be considered “perfect”?
I’m getting a sneaking suspicion that the reason that presents and cake exist as a way of celebrating is all about subtle bribery. Let’s face it, if you give a child gifts and treats and lots of extra attention, you lessen the likelihood of it all ending in tears.
Today’s is Clara’s sixth birthday.
We started well: last night we hung bunting across the stairs, and put gifts (sent by her kind aunt) in the porch, as though they had come through the letterbox early in the morning (“the postman came in the middle of the night mum? that’s weird…” said four year old Emmie – this trick may not work for long).
We had bought Clara a bike but would give it to her in the evening when we weren’t rushing to go to work – for now it was hidden in the backseat of the car, under a blanket.
So yes, this morning was wonderful – huge excitement opening the gifts, exclamations over the bunting – even the cornflakes were a source of joy on this perfect birthday morning.
I was a little late leaving for work as a result of all the celebrating, but since I’d be working from home in the afternoon and avoiding rush hour traffic, so I’d make up the time easily later on.
My boss was flying in to visit us for the morning, so unlike other Thursdays, I needed to be in the office for a few hours.
I remembered en route that I had no breakfast cereal left in work (if only I’d had some of Clara’s joy-filled cornflakes) but figured I’d have time to run out for coffee and a scone before my boss arrived.
Except that when I arrived at ten to eight, twenty minutes late, she was already there, sitting patiently, waiting for me.
Now I’ve only had my new working hours (requested by me) in place for two weeks, so arriving late didn’t look brilliant. I could have launched into explaining that I’d been planning to work later at home, but it was one of those situations where if you’re explaining, you’re losing. So I went with breezy. Breezy is a great solution for loads of situations.
|no coffee fix (image credit townofnewportnc.com)
No chance for coffee and scone now, so I headed into three hours of meetings. My biggest priority, apart from covering up the sounds emanating from my rumbling stomach, was to leave on time to collect birthday-girl from school. I collect her every Thursday when I work from home, and was especially determined to do this on her birthday.
The meeting went on and on, my stomach grumbled loudly, and I could feel a headache coming on. Finally, a little after mid-day, my boss left and I raced down to the car. Next dilemma: Clara had asked for sausages and chips for dinner as a birthday treat but these were yet to be purchased. I needed to get to Superquinn before the school collection.
Having had no breakfast and with no prospect of lunch, my headache intensified. But the will to cook her the tea of her dreams (I know, simple pleasures) for propelled me through the rainy mid-day traffic and the ever-worsening headache, and I managed to reach the school on time, chips and sausages in hand.
Seeing Clara’s smile when she spotted me made it all worthwhile. We chatted as we dodged puddles on the way to the car, huddled under one umbrella – pressure now off.
Until we reached the car, and I realised that the bike we had bought her was still lying across the back-seat under a blanket.
I asked her to wait beside the car – she wanted to know why – this went over and back as I begged her to give me a few minutes to “do something” (great on the spot thinking there; I need to “do something”)
What to do? I couldn’t leave the child there. I couldn’t leave the bike there (I did once leave a buggy but that wasn’t on purpose)
So in the lashing rain, with a pounding headache, and cars rushing past, I spent ten minutes pulling and pushing the bike, trying to move it, trying to lift it, eventually realising that it was too heavy to lift and wouldn’t fit in the boot anyway.
So I tried to lower the front seat back to put the bike on that (because she’d never spot that a huge, bulky, lumpy thing with handlebars sticking out from under a blanket was lying on the front seat).
But I couldn’t figure out how to lower the front seat, so pushed it forward instead, and manipulated the bike into an upright position, leaning awkwardly against the seat back. The blanket was mostly covering it, just a hint of a stabiliser wheel sticking out one end and the tip of a handlebar on the other end.
She’d never guess what it is.
“It’s a bike” said Clara, “I know it’s a bike!”
“It’s a bike” said Clara, “I know it’s a bike!”
So, there I was, soaking wet, splitting headache, nothing eaten all day, trouble with the boss narrowly avoided and now birthday present surprise ruined – not quite the perfect day I had pictured.
“This is the best birthday ever” said Clara, sitting smiling in the back seat. Not so bad after all so.