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  • Writer's pictureMaia Dunkel

Every Birthday is a Good One.

Updated: Apr 18, 2019

Celebrate Always!!!

Yesterday, May 17, was my birthday. I am 46 which means I am still in my mid-40s. Yay!

I love my birthday. I always have. I think it’s because my Mom made a big deal about it when I was little. She didn’t get much in the way of parties growing up in a poor-ish family on a farm in Northern Minnesota. In fact, I don’t know if she ever even had a birthday party. They weren’t starving but it’s not like they had a ton of extra money to spend on superfluous events. She was the third child of four so by the time they got to her, much of the reverie was somewhat deflated.

Barbara, aka “Babs”, aka, “Baba”, knows how to throw a party. Every detail is thought through Martha Stewart-style. Once I had an actual hand-made May Day pole around which we danced. A blue bicycle with streamers emerging from the handlebars magically appeared in my bedroom on my fifth birthday. For my “sweet 16” my parents threw a Luau-themed fete sans pig which took place in our back yard. I can’t believe it was thirty years ago yesterday! Babs made a series of unique drinks named after my friends. One was “Pina Carynoda - A Tall Cool One” after Caryn Dodd one of my best friends since I was ten. My Dad lit tiki torches all around the garden and manned the grill all night. T-Shirts were designed by my cousin, Liza, and her Art Director, Sue, which were handed out as party favors. The tagline read, “Party Late in ’88!” I am sure we did until about 9.

Mila loves her birthday too and I am trying to continue the tradition of making her feel really special on her day, December 11. On her second birthday, Elmo stopped by to help celebrate along with her music teacher who came with a guitar to sing her favorite songs. Baba was there as well as “Pop Pop” (my Dad) via Skype. He couldn’t fly here as planned due to an impending operation but he was watching from my Mac on the top of the piano.

Mila’s favorite part of the day is the “Happy Birthday” song. She likes to sing it and be sung to. That year, 2016, she made us sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Mila was so overwhelmed by the attention and loud chorus the first time around, she didn’t know what hit her. The second time she could actually take it in slowly and enjoy it.

Public Service Announcement: Two is always better then one when it comes to singing happy birthday and vacations. A two-week vacation is absolutely necessary for the following reason: You need the first week to unwind and unplug from your normal life…decompress, if you will. You then need the second week to fully enjoy yourself and truly rest. These five-day vacations Americans take are bullshit if you ask me. You come back home barely feeling like you were even away. And if you want to go to Europe or somewhere else with a significant time difference, forget it. You must take two weeks. Do it people, your workplace can live without you. If they can’t, question management.

It just hit me as I was writing this that when my Mom was 46, I was in finishing my freshman year in college. Holy Moly! I couldn’t imagine having a kid in college. I feel like I graduated yesterday and Mila still wears a diaper at night. Being an older parent will likely be the case for you if you decided to solo parent simply because you probably waited until the last possible minute to have a child. And that’s OK! The world is changing. I found an article that supports the data so you know you won’t be alone. Here’s an excerpt:

The Steady Increase in women having babies later in life is undeniable: First-time mothers are more likely to be 35 or older than their counterparts from two decades ago, according to the Pew Research Center. While the number of first-time moms between ages 20 and 24 falls, the number of births to women in their 30s and 40s keeps growing. In fact, in the past 20 years, the number of women having children in their mid-40s and beyond has tripled.

At Mila’s Montessori school in Lakeview, Chicago, I see young parents, old parents, mixed-race parents and I’ve seen one couple made up of two women. Having said that, I have yet to see another Solo Parent. Maybe he or she exists, but I don’t know him or her. Usually we can sniff each other out fairly quickly. We, Solo Parents, are out there and gaining in numbers, but we are still a bit of an anomaly.

One day I caught sight of a sheet of paper that was taped on the wall by the door of Mila’s toddler classroom. It was a list of all the kids in the class and the names of their parents. There were two columns listed as “Mom” and “Dad.” Every single “Mom” name was filled out: Asha, Maria, Tracy, Maia etc. Every single “Dad” line was also filled out, except Mila’s. I expected to see an N/A or even an “X” mark but it was blank. I was tempted to write in my own name in the “Dad” column with the green Crayola crayon resting on the table nearby, but chose not to be provocative and cause a scene. I immediately asked the teachers if Mila ever asks about “Daddy” and they simply smiled and said, “No, not yet.” I breathed in a sigh of relief thankful I didn’t have to tackle that conversation just yet. I imagine I will have to address it closer to her fourth or fifth birthday, which is, God willing, around the corner.

Yesterday I had a wonderful birthday despite a very difficult year. My father passed away in January as well as one of my best friends just over year ago. (I will be writing much on both of them in the future, but I am not ready yet). This year I am more aware of how fragile life is and I am thankful to be alive. Every year from here on out, I will wish for one more birthday to enjoy the gift of life which for me is being able to see my daughter grow.

Also, I’m eager to see how the parent list in her classroom evolves over the next five or ten years.

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