Tonight we celebrated Dylan's 15th birthday. I can't remember a worse birthday celebration. I really blew it.
Last night, I watched this horribly emotional movie about mothers and children--mothers who give their babies up for adoption, lost relationships, and the ripples of regret. It was actually a pretty good movie, but when it was over, I couldn't stop crying. Into my pillow, as quietly as I could, I sobbed and sobbed. I remembered every harsh thing I'd said to my children, every time they irritated me and I let them know it, every time I was too busy, too short, too detached. I wished I could do things all over again, especially when I realize that I'm running out of time. Motherhood is fraught with melodrama.
My thoughts turned to Dylan. Fifteen, he is, now. And we struggle, he and I. In fact, this will be the year that he will most likely move in with his dad for a while. It rips my heart out, and yet, it whispers relief. Both of which are hard to deal with.
I didn't get much sleep. Once I fell asleep, the night was fitful. Swollen eyes and fatigue kept me moving in slow motion throughout the day. I made dinner, but then some people didn't want to eat. "It's Dylan's birthday dinner!" I proclaimed, "Please eat!" So all these people gathered around the table in a huff.
"Now," I said, "we're going to go around the table and all say what we love about Dylan."
Dylan, of all people, protested. "Thanks all the same," he began, "but I'd rather you not. I hate that part. It takes people too long to think of something nice to say."
"It's a tradition, and we're doing it," I said. I have no idea what the right move to make is anymore. Give in, plow through? I've been walking on eggshells with this boy for so long, I can't even think straight. It does take people a little longer to think of nice things to say to him, but there are plenty of them, for sure, and he needed to hear them. We needed to think of them. He's full of goodness! He is loved!
I brought down Dylan's gifts. Two pairs of jeans, neither of which fit him. One because of a warehouse mistake, one because of growth. Frustrated, and obviously disappointed, he asked why I was trying to "change him". Can't I see that he only wears Dickies shorts? He doesn't wear jeans because he doesn't like jeans. Oh, brother. I thought it was because he didn't have any jeans, and here it is January and all.
I argued that I'd bought them from Tilly's, his favorite store, and the one pair really should fit him, since it was the same size as the last pair we bought. He tried them on, just to make a humiliating point. The point being that I'm stupid and clueless, I suppose.
Just give me back the bleeping jeans and I'll return them.
He liked his other two presents, but the atmosphere was shot. My feelings were hurt, rightfully, wrongfully, reasonably or unreasonably, I admit to all of it. I've been killing myself trying to please this boy and I just can't get it right.
We sat down for cake, and I didn't have any candles. Why should we have candles? The birthday's already ruined, why not take it all the way down? I found a huge jack-o-lantern candle and set it in the middle of the angel food cake. Our traditional mother-child-birthday cake photograph is laced with disappointment. We sing. Even I didn't buy it. He makes a wish. Finally. I can only imagine what it was.
The cake was delicious.
I want to run and run and run. Except that it's dark outside, I'm out of shape, and I hate running. Lyndsay tries to comfort me. I begin to cry and tell her to be quiet. "Yeah, well, when the whole birthday is on your shoulders and you mess everything up and your child is so spoiled that he complains about any gift he is given, then I'll tell you things are fine." She walks away. Smart girl.
Now I sit here sulking, with everyone else upstairs in safety. Fifteen years, I made it. The last birthday I may have my Dylan-boy with me. Probably nobody understood the emotional backdrop to this evening's charades. The movie, the lack of sleep, my turmoil over failing my son, the regrets, the mixed emotions about him leaving, anxiety about the future. All of that showed up tonight.
They just wanted cake, I think.