The Worst Birthday Ever

birthday cupcakes

My daughter is going to turn nine in a few days. She shares a birthday with my mom. (It’s true. And I never have to give my mom another birthday present ever.) My parents live seven hours and three states away. We’re fortunate that none of us is in a coronavirus hotspot, but for several different reasons, we don’t think it’s safe for them to travel to visit, or us to travel to them. So for the first time since my daughter’s first birthday party, the two of them won’t get to celebrate together.

My daughter’s birthday is on a Wednesday. Since last November, she’d been planning to have a slumber party the Friday following her birthday. It would have been her first. She had promised certain friends that they would be invited. (Whaaaat?) She’s devastated that it’s not going to happen. We had hoped that we might at least be able to do a socially distant get together with three or four friends from her “pod” at school, but the school just announced its first case of COVID-19 yesterday. It’s the first time since she started school that she won’t have a party with her friends.

My daughter gained an “adopted” set of grandparents when we moved to our current city four years ago. Just like her other grandparents, they love to spoil her a bit when it comes to birthdays and holidays. They live in the same city we do and have seen her once in the past six months—a brief glimpse at a mandatory meeting six weeks ago (long story). They picked out a birthday present for her, which they’ll have to deliver via contactless front porch delivery. No hugs.

My daughter loves sweets. She doesn’t over-indulge (we’ve always been impressed with her self-restraint), but she likes to treat herself. When I asked her the other day what kind of cake she wants for her birthday this year, she informed me she doesn’t want a cake. Or cupcakes. In fact, she said that because all she wants is the party she can’t have, she doesn’t want to celebrate at all. To be fair, she added that presents would be okay because those sometimes make her happy. (A kid after my own heart.)

Y’all, I’m sad for my daughter.

I’m sad for all the kids out there who are struggling through missed celebrations and milestones whether they’re everyday birthdays, Quinceañeras or Sweet Sixteens, or performances, proms or graduations. And I want to give a shout out to all the grown-ups who are pulling out all the stops when it comes to creative ways to celebrate, whether in virtual or socially distanced ways. I see your Zoom parties, your car parades, your giant lawn displays, and your card showers. I see your family working hard to make up for the extra love that your kids’ friends usually share with them. You’re amazing!

I love my daughter. I keep reminding myself that kids are resilient, and that what they’ll remember most is the love. And also that things won’t be like this forever, so that, even if I have to wait until next August, I can give my daughter a ninth birthday slumber party—with cake.