My beautiful daughter Aoife turned six today. Six. I don’t know when it happened, but she decided to grow up into this sassy kindergartener this year. It seems like yesterday she was wreaking havoc in-utero and then toddling across the living room floor leaving a trail of destruction behind. For mothers, birthdays are often a mixed bag of so many emotions. And this year is especially hard. Yes, I am happy she’s growing, but man, what a world we’re living in to be a kid.
Last night as I decorated the kitchen for morning festivities I wondered what this birthday would look like for Aoife. Both my girls do remote school here in New York. They pop into Google classroom every day and get live instruction. Some families have elected to send their children into the physical building. Mostly Wonderful and I just felt it was safer to be at home, especially given my fragile health and a potential second wave of COVID. I wondered if Aoife would feel sad or left out being unable to celebrate in person with her classmates, family, and other neighborhood friends.
I woke up at 7 am to order Dunkin Donuts for breakfast via UberEATS. Then I snuck into her bedroom to wake her because I wanted Aoife to have ample time to enjoy her gifts before remote school started. She was literally shaking with excitement and absolutely could not wait to go downstairs to see what surprises were in store.
I have to say, I splurged a little more than I normally would on birthday gifts. I call it “Parental COVID Guilt.” Even though I had nothing personally to do with the global pandemic, my daughters have had a rough time with being locked indoors. They’re in the house all the time with the exception of a nightly walk through the cemetery next to our house and playing in our backyard during school recess.
How did I soothe my Parental COVID Guilt, you ask? American Girl. Fricken’ American Girl.
That store is the bane of my existence. I spend more money there than I do on clothes for myself for an entire year. That being said, Aoife was quite literally tickled “pink” when she opened her Truly Me doll with pink hair. She also got some Bitty Baby clothes and a Ferrari Barbie Doll. The kid is obsessed with Formula One Racing. You can thank Mostly Wonderful for that!
After sprinkled donuts and presents, Aoife put on her 6th Birthday T-shirt that read “Awesome Since 2014.” I did her hair in her requested ponytail braid combination and she put on a birthday hat headband. When it was time for school her teacher immediately acknowledged her special day and the entire class of little kindergarteners, all 7 of them, chimed in to sing “Happy Birthday” virtually.
I could feel the lump in my throat as I watched a room full of tiny children, all wearing masks, gather around a laptop while social distancing to wish their virtual classmate a Happy 6th Birthday. And I thought to myself, “What the hell is happening right now?” “What kind of birthday is this?” “How is this normal?”
In years past, I would have been wracking my brain trying to figure out how I was going to carry juice boxes, homemade cupcakes, and hold onto my guide dog while getting up to school. Instead, I was standing in my kitchen wearing pajamas and staring at a computer screen.
With a birthday balloon tied to the back of our kitchen chair in her makeshift classroom, Aoife turned to me with a huge smile. “Did you see that, mommy? They sang me happy birthday on the computer! This is the best birthday ever!” Tickled pink for the second time in one morning.
The world our kids are living in is anything but what they’re used to. It’s scary, isolating, and unsure. We do our best to try to make it feel safer for them, but as parents, we also don’t know what’s coming down the pike.
As I think of birthdays past I feel nostalgia for simpler times. I also miss those tiny hands and baby feet. I miss onesies and yes, even diapers. But I think the thing I miss the most is the comfort associated with normalcy. If a Google Classroom birthday sing-along is the new normal, we have a long road ahead of us.
As for Aoife, she sure is resilient for a kid. I am so proud of how she rolled with the punches today. She continues to amaze me with her creativity, moxie, love of racecars, and sharks. She’s stubborn and sweet and I know whatever she does in life she will be a BOSS!
Six looks good on ya, kid.