Birthday Celebrations in the Time of Covid-19
My son’s birthday is always an emotional day for me. How has another year passed already? I find myself looking back at pictures and reminiscing over the past year.
My son loves to look at pictures on my phone too. Some of his favorite photos are those from his past two birthday parties. I am not a creative over-the-top party planner by nature, but with the help of my good friend and neighbor, Kayla, I have been able to make my son’s last two birthday parties pretty special.
We live a few hours away from our family and relatives, but they always make the drive to be at my son’s birthday party. So, it is one of the few times each year that we have pictures of everyone together at our house.
My son has enjoyed looking through the pictures and naming each party guest. His face lights up with a smile as he points out his neighborhood friends eating cake with him on our porch.
So, it broke my heart to know that we would be unable to throw him a party for his 3rd birthday this year.
When we started asking him about his birthday, I really thought that he would ask about a party since he always looks at the pictures from his previous birthdays.
Fortunately for me, all that my son wanted for his birthday was cake and ice cream. I was really surprised that he didn’t ask about a party at all, but I guess I got lucky that he just didn’t make the connection. Since we knew for awhile that we wouldn’t be able to have one, we hadn’t been talking to him about it beforehand. If we had already planned it and had him all amped up, then it might have been a different story.
We asked him what he wanted for his birthday and every single time, he responded with “cake and ice cream.” He usually only gets to eat cake when it is someone’s birthday, so it is a special treat to him, and he loves his sweets (I think I know where he gets that from).
I’m sure we could have attempted a virtual party of some sort. I contemplated going down that road, but that just felt out of my comfort zone. I can barely get my son to focus on FaceTime with one person at a time in controlled circumstances. Trying to get a group of young kids to attempt something like this seemed out of my league.
I’ve heard of friends and neighbors driving by the house with signs and honking their horns. My son probably would have enjoyed that, but I just didn’t have the forethought to organize it in time for him. Like I said, this party-planning area is not where I thrive.
We ended up doing a group video chat with our closest family members, just long enough to sing him “Happy Birthday” and blow out the candles. And you know what? He absolutely loved it. First of all, he got his cake and ice cream, but he also loved watching everyone sing to him and being the center of attention. He still got to see his family members. It was different and exciting to him.
We still decorated the house with a theme. I will admit it was much more low-key than in the past, but my son didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he loved his fire truck tablecloth, paper plates, napkins, and cups. He was so excited to continue using them for the rest of the week.
The thing that I cherish most about this age is how excited my son gets about the little things. I often find myself trying to soak that in when I see him get excited about fire truck paper cups, or cake and ice cream. One of his favorite birthday presents was a $5 electric toothbrush. (Added Bonus: one of his favorite activities is now brushing his teeth, which is good, you know, because of all the cake and ice cream).
Many families are suffering financially right now and may not be able to afford big parties or expensive presents to affirm their love to their kids. At first, I was feeling guilty about not planning enough of a party or not going crazy with presents for my son. But at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you love your child and you are there for them. Showing your love comes in many shapes and forms, and kids know when they are loved. My son was happy as could be and had a wonderful birthday because he had the things that matter most. He had his family, his health, and his cake (only half-kidding there).
Now, I know that I got lucky because my son didn’t really understand what was going on and that there are many kids who are in this situation right now who have been heartbroken. I also think about all the seniors who haven’t had prom or graduation, weddings that have been postponed or celebrated without family and friends present.
I think about those who can’t even hold proper funerals to grieve loved ones who have died. And when I think about that, it forces me to step back and put everything in perspective. It’s hard to put birthday parties and prom in the same category as losing loved ones, because you can’t. If we are lucky enough to be only inconvenienced by Covid-19, and not grieving loved ones, then it should really serve as a stark reminder to be thankful to have our health and our loved ones with us or only a phone call away.
In this time of pandemic where there is so much loss, grief, suffering, and anxiety, it is also a time where we can recognize the beauty of the blessings in our lives. I am reminding myself to learn from my son and find joy in the little things. This is when we learn what is truly important in our lives, and we just may realize that those “little” things we take for granted, are really the ones that matter most.