Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Stolen Birthday

As the youngest of three siblings by several years, I never really had to get used to sharing.  When I was in elementary school, my siblings were in high school and college so I didn’t have to worry about them taking my GI Joes or WWF action figures. I don’t say that to make a point about selfishness, but more related to growing up with a high level of independence. What was mine was mine and I liked it that way.

That all changed three years ago this week. My birthday is coming up in a few days. I haven’t really been a big birthday celebrator in many years, partly because aging is a frustrating thing when your life isn’t exactly what you hoped it might be. I’m not complaining, as I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful wife and family. But for quite a while I brushed off my birthday as just another day.

The Little Dude was born 9 days before my birthday three years ago. In the Jewish religion we have a ceremony called a Bris that is performed on a newborn boy’s 8th day of life. It’s a powerful ritual that goes back thousands of years and is also an important milestone shared joyously with family and friends. Given the timing of his birth, the Little Dude’s Bris was held the day before my birthday. It was a wonderful day, but I think it made me a little jealous.

As parents of a newborn, Mrs. Dude and I mostly hung around the house for the first few weeks after he arrived. And just like the day before it, the day after the Bris was no different. But it was my birthday. And part of me wanted to reclaim it like a dog who gets angry when another dog finds one of his long-forgotten buried bones.

Little Dude & me at lunch that day. 
My parents were in town and we went to lunch on my birthday at a nearby place where we could sit outside. Southern California is one of the few places in the country that affords that kind of luxury in mid-November. After lunch we went back to the house to sit around and look at the baby. And it was boring. The Little Dude was a great sleeper since birth so most of the time we just watched him. That day we also opened gifts that people had brought for him to the Bris and ate leftovers from the Bris for dinner.  

Sometime that evening, I got upset. I didn’t know why, but my emotions got the best of me and I had a slight meltdown. I’m sure exhaustion played a part, but there had to be another reason. I was blessed to be sitting with my family and beautiful baby boy so what was the problem?

It wasn’t until late that night while lying in bed that I realized my life had really changed.  Because that day was supposed to be my day. And even though I hadn’t intended to celebrate my birthday in any particular manner, it had been unknowingly co-opted by an innocent person who, ironically, was partly there because of me.

I’d wanted to get dressed and go out to dinner that night instead of just eating leftover corned beef while wearing sweatpants as we actually did. And that’s when I realized what being a parent really meant.  It took me exactly 9 days of fatherhood to realize that parenting is about being selfless for the betterment of my family. So this year I will happily share my birthday with my wife and two boys and do whatever they need or want me to do. For they are truly the greatest birthday gift I could ever hope for. 


  1. I love this post! The canine analogy is right-on, the story of your meltdown is well-told, and the ending is sweet and rings true without going over the top. It's hard to shake that childhood feeling of your birthday being special. But just wait until Little Dude is old enough to make you beautiful and funky presents of his own creation; they'll be the best presents you'll ever receive.

  2. Totally honest and totally true. It's not until you're in the thick of the selfless moment that you realize how selfless you're going to have to be.