I can’t give you the birthday gift that I want to.
I would give you time alone together, and a perfectly picked-up house.
I would give you a quiet dinner in that new restaurant that serves tacos and rum. I would give you a weekend in bed, and a day for the two of us.
I know you don’t want this, though.
You do want time for us to remember why we fell in love, when it seems your wife has wandered away and been replaced by a grumpier, growling version of the cuter, loving, strong picturesque mama bear. You might want to live in a house more evenings with that woman I once was more easily, before I became a mother—but you want our kids and all that they bring into our lives.
The baby has been walking around, singing happy birthday for at least a week. Our oldest is prepped, and ecstatic, and ready to give you the gift that she picked out, and to help make your chocolate cake.
Kids are reminders of the sheer joy and magic that birthdays gift to us, when older people can forget—seeing them merely as another candle.
I wish I could have planned a sexier celebration, for after our kids go to bed; after we get to have them sing with us, and give you your presents, and enjoy this day of honoring you. (But you know as well as I do that the baby has been difficult to get to sleep these last two weeks, and that plans these days are sometimes met, and more typically left behind and replaced with an unexpected one—such is life with kids.)
So, instead, I’ll give you a chocolate cake, and a few wrapped items.
I’ll give you a dinner that sounds good, most likely made in our kitchen, and I’ll sing to you with these girls and their sweet voices.
I’ll give you a house that stays clutter free for, optimistically, 10 minutes. I’ll give you alone time in the bathroom, without me calling through the door, asking when I can get in.
I’ll give you a day when you remember that you’re loved, and not just part of a tired tag-team that tries to get through an evening. I’d like to tell you that there won’t be screaming at the dinner table, or whining before bed, but another thing about kids and birthdays is that—when they’re small—they are only so capable of understanding that this isn’t a “normal” day.
I’ll put an extra candle on your cake—in addition to your year-older one—for a good-luck wish, and I’ll hope you blow out your candles and enter the best year of your life yet.
I hope you remember that we are a team, and that I’m your partner, when it feels like nearly all of our energy is devoted to this little family that we’re raising, and not just to being in love.
I’ll hope you remember that you are loved—greatly—and that I want your wishes to come true, and, more than anything, that I want to be right here holding your hand, and making your chocolate cakes, and singing in front of additional candles for many more birthdays ahead.