My son was really excited for his birthday last year. Like crazy excited. Three months out he started asking how many days until the big day. Every day, he asked, “How many days?” “How many more days?” “HOW MANY MORE DAYS?” Until I was ready to jump out of a window.
As the big day approached, he got catatonic with glee. The night before was like the night before Christmas, except 4,000 times more exciting. When he finally stopped bouncing off the walls, I tucked him in. As I leaned in to kiss his head he looked up at me and said, “Tomorrow is going to be the best day ever.”
“It is,” I said. We had big plans. All his favorite things packed into one day.
He woke up early the next morning and something seemed off. He felt warm. He opened a present and blew out the candle in his pancakes. By 8am, he was warmer than warm. He was burning up. I took his temperature and yep, raging 103 fever. Then the puking started.
When I realized how sick he was, I was incredibly disappointed for him. All of our fun plans were shot to hell. Instead of going hiking, we were going to the doctor. Instead of partying, he was puking. I felt robbed. For him. His birthday was ruined.
I kept waiting for him to show his disappointment. Kept waiting for the massive meltdown. Waiting for him to scream and cry and complain that the day he so wished for, the day he waited months and months for, was a bust.
But it never came. There were no tears. There was no meltdown. Not once did he complain.
The day was spent with him huddled in my lap with feverish chills. We gave him gifts he could barely open and sang Happy Birthday as he snuggled on the sofa. And at the end of the day, I gave him a cupcake with five candles shoved on top. He smiled and ate one bite.
When I tucked him in at bedtime, he said, “That was the best birthday.” I was shocked. If it had been my birthday, I would have bitched and moaned and complained till sundown. I would have been angry that of all the days I had to get sick, it had to be my birthday. But not my little guy.
“Why was it the best?” I asked.
“Because I got to be with you,” he said. “And I loved my cupcake.”
My heart twisted in moment of pride and happiness. Despite it all, he still felt celebrated. He still had a good day.
“I’m glad you liked it,” I said as I kissed his feverish little forehead.
I tiptoed out of the room as he fell asleep and went down to wash the dishes. As I was scrubbing egg off of a pot, I realized I learned something that day. Something from my son. He taught me that even when life throws you a curve ball, even when things don’t go as well as you hoped they would, you can still appreciate the cupcake.