Today my oldest child, Mairen, turned 12. She had a terrific day and is a gem of a girl. Her friends decorated her locker at school, she took a couple of tests that she felt really good about and she was nominated by her principal for a Birmingham Optimist Award. Tonight, Kevin made dinner for the grandparents and we all shared salmon and asparagus and rice with squash soup for dinner. For dessert, I made a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It was a very grown up affair.
I remember not too long ago, when I would be up late into the night before her birthday crafting and decorating her elaborate birthday cakes in 3-D shapes like a circus train or a soccer ball or a big bed with eight girls sleeping in it. We have always done in home birthday parties for the kids with cheeky, old fashioned games, a craft, usually a meal, and always cake and ice cream. We have always enjoyed the process of finding a theme, designing the invitations and making them, choosing the games and food and I have always made the cake.
I love to bake. I have always loved it from the time I was in 3rd grade and was allowed to use the oven and mixer on my own. Each year for each child’s birthday, I would make two cakes: one for the family party and one for the friends party. No corner cutting though….if I was making a 3-D monster cake on a ramp, I did it twice. It became a sort of badge of honor and a gift of sorts to each of the kids. They loved to see their cake in evolution and really enjoyed the final product. At some point though, and I am still not sure exactly when it happened, Mairen got too old for this sort of thing. She wants a cake of course, but needs nothing fancy, nothing elaborate, nothing challenging for me to make. Last year when she wanted a ‘normal’ cake it was a relief. The pressure was off and I could just enjoy making a plain cake. This year though, I am missing it. I am missing putting energy and thought into a creation made just for her. However fleeting, these cakes were a physical representation of my affection, a labor of love. I missed showing her in this concrete way how I feel about her. Other gifts are great but the cake was always MY present to her.
She is growing up of course and our relationship is changing. In many ways for the better. We are growing closer and sharing more and more with each other. Sometimes I think I don’t need the cake to show her how much I love her and yet making the elaborate cake is an easy way to do that. Sharing more of myself is harder in some ways but as she is telling me in a very concrete way that she is growing up, I must too and embrace a new phase in this mother-daughter relationship. Sometimes making a cake seems a lot easier.
Share yourself, embrace your kids and evolve and each day will be your best!
Molly O’Shea, MD Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center