Friday, September 14, 2007

Another Year

In my family, my mother said "I love you" with wonderful, thoughtful birthday and holiday celebrations. She didn't always spend a lot of money, but all the details were creative and showed that she'd made a significant effort for each of us.

Before your birthday, she'd ask you to name your favorite meal. The morning of, you'd come downstairs to the kitchen to find streamers, happy birthday signs, and doughnuts. Doughnuts! (We normally had a very healthy home.)

We were encouraged to celebrate in the ways that made us comfortable - I usually wore a tie to school and called it my "birthday suit" - and for dinner we had our most favoritest foods homemade by mom.

There were presents, too, great ones, not brand name dolls or jeans, but surprising things she'd discerned that we'd really love to have just from listening to us talk to each other and watching us play.

And we had great birthday parties, though my parents never rented a bouncy house. My mom made an amazing, incredible, creative cake (always strawberry for me!), decorated the house, and invited as many children as the birthday warranted (9 on my 9th, etc.). She had great timing, starting new a game just before we lost interest in the current one. All our friends loved our parents, loved birthday parties at our house.

It's not that Paul forgets my birthday - how could he, with all the electronic reminders prompting him to remember? But it's just that it's so hard for him to do the things that I consider "thoughtful," to show me that he loves me in the language that I learned as a child.

And it's hard for me to understand that he really does care, that he struggles to find ways to show it.


Jonathon said...

Is your birthday today? If so, happy birthday! It's my b-day too... and so far Jonathon has not done a thing. My mom is so much better at b-day stuff than he is.

- two lines on a stick

A said...

Oh, I can relate to that! My husband loves me and cares so much, but he also struggles to find ways to express it. We have very different ideas of birthday (and other) celebrations. It is sometimes difficult to take a step back and understand each other.

I have been a lurker for a while, so just thought I'd say hello!

And happy birthday, if it is your birthday.

Krupskaya said...

Happy birthday, and I know where you're coming from.

My mom was much the same for birthdays, and it has taken me 10 years of marriage to realize that if I want to get the birthday I want, I have to do it. I make the cake and set up something nice for myself (day off work, food I like, etc.). I've let go of most of the resentment that Mr. K doesn't do this for me, but it still rankles. I think you pegged it perfectly: he gets thoughtful presents, but it's not "in the language that I learned as a child."

Kristi said...

This must be a common theme in marriages. I've had a couple of rather down birthdays where Merl didn't get me a birthday cake. I've had several where I just pre-empted the whole scene by making my own (and making a huge verbal deal of deciding what kind to make and making an event of it). Our families growing up prioritized different things, and my (non-sweet-toothed) husband just doesnt (didn't) think that it mattered. I don't think I realized that it mattered that much until the first year where I didn't spend any time around my birthday with my family, and had no cake. We're learning that if we have expectations (either of us) for how events or holidays or whatever are handled, that it's better to just say it outloud and upfront than to wait and expect the other one to just "know".

Happy Birthday!

ccw said...

Happy Birthday!

My mom is also one of those great gift buyers. She squirrels away everything you say throughout the year and always ends up getting the best gifts.

My ex-husband, while a complete asshole, was an excellent gift buyer. You could always tell he thought about what me and what he was buying.

Mr. MFBA on the other hand, prefers a list. Then he buys only what is on the list. I have tried to explain how flippin' depressing this can make me feel but I have a feeling it will never change.

Sarahlynn said...

Thanks, Two Lines on a Stick, and Happy Birthday! I hope you were pleasantly surprised in the end.

Hello, A, and thank you! My birthday was the 13th.

Krupskaya, thanks, and I do the same thing. I planned my own party this year (not mentioning that it was a birthday party - I just gathered some people I wanted to get together and do something I wanted to do, you know?) and it was perfect. I baked my own cake, I made an appointment for a pedicure . . . but it still feels nice to have someone else do the pampering too.

Thanks, Kristi. Yes, Paul and I too find that communication is key. However, "please be thoughtful and think about what I've told you I like" isn't exactly the sort of constructive suggestion I can give, you know? Every year, Paul tries. He writes down ideas from the year before, he imagines himself doing it better . . . and then it's my actual birthday and his head goes blank. It's something we laugh about . . . most of the time.

Thanks, CCW! Your mom, my mom: so thoughful! We do lists too, and at first Paul's family was resistant. But after the tan suede leather-style suit I got several years ago, I think that Christmas/birthday wish lists can be a very good thing! It's hard to buy thoughtful gifts for people you don't see all the time.