Truthful Tuesday: Birthdays

Hi all! It’s Tuesday and I’m feeling a little better still than I was yesterday. I’m still having a cold, but it’s mostly manageable now.

Today I’m participating in Truthful Tuesday. This week’s question is: as you have gotten older, do you still celebrate your birthday, or has it become just another day to you?

The presumption behind this question is that, as we get older and the effects of aging become less positive than they were when we were a child or teen, some people no longer appreciate their birthdays.

I find, and maybe this will change when I get even older, that the opposite is true. I will be 35 in June and have found that, with increased age, does come increased wisdom. I am probably not old enough yet to start feeling depressed about my life’s regrets. That doesn’t mean I don’t have many, but they don’t weigh me down that much as of yet. I hope that won’t come either, but I’m pretty sure it will.

In contrast, when I was a child, I feared growing up. My birthdays were fun because of the gifts I got, but that’s about it. I never felt that flash of excitement that some children and teens feel as they get older. No, not even (or especially not) when I turned twelve, sixteen or eighteen.

When I turned 30 in 2016, I did have some mixed feelings. I was excited to be allowed into the over-30s groups on Facebook but also felt that, at my age, I could no longer have emotional outbursts. I still did. That latter feeling subsided over time though as I realized a neurotypical ten-year-old wouldn’t have meltdowns like mine.

My birthday has always been an exciting yet stressful event. Now though, it’s more exciting than stressful usually. My parents don’t make a point of telling me to act grown-up anymore. For this reason, them visiting me for this occasion – usually the only time a year I see them in real life -, is mostly fun.

I do indeed still celebrate my birthday. Months in advance, my husband starts asking me what I want for my birthday. It’s also a bit of a tradition that he takes the week around my birthday off from work.

Most years, I spread out my birthday party over several days, as I don’t want to have the house full of visitors. Last year, the visiting restrictions due to COVID were lifted the day before my birthday. This meant that my parents could actually take me out for a ride in their car rather than having to sit in the care facility’s garden for the entirety of the visit.

My mother-in-law visited me the day before and brought me the giant bear soft toy. That’s another thing that makes birthdays fun: I love getting gifts. Of course, I can buy myself the things I really want too, but I actually like the fact that people give me something I wouldn’t buy myself.

Maybe, now that I’m inn my thirties and don’t have to act grown-up, as I’m on disability and in long-term care, I can finally feel the excitement of being a kid at heart.

At Every Age

There’s so much I want to write about, but I can’t get myself to sit down and actually write. Well, sitting down is not the problem, as I’m probably still a pretty sedentary person, but actually writing is.

Today, I”m joining in with Finish the Sentence Friday (#FtSF). This week, the prompt is to write about your (or your child’s or whoever’s) favorite age.

I used to think being younger was better. I don’t really know why. Maybe I was conscious at an early age of the fact that life is finite, so growing up meant getting closer to death. I also thought that growing up meant an increase in responsibility, which scared me from an early age on. After all, I knew from as young as age nine on that I was supposed to leave the house and go to university by eighteen. That’s a huge burden of awareness to carry as a child that young.

Now I think being at every age has its beauty. I do worry that I’m declining in health already, and this is where the sitting down comes in. I really need to get more active, because I know that at every age, you can do something to improve your health and wellbeing.

I also think that, at every age, you can retain or regain some level of childlike wonder. We see this in the alters, who each represent a particular stage in development. Some are grown-up for their age, like Jace, the 9-year-old who was told about going to university and leaving the house. Others are more childlike, like Milou, who is 8-years-old and very playful. We also have an adult, Marieke, who, though she’s 32, enjoys sensory learning and play.

In my fellow clients at day activities, I also see the beauty in every age. They are intellectually disabled, most with a so-called “mental age” under six. Now the concept of “mental age” is highly ableist. However, learning about normal child development can teach us some interesting things about myself and others with developmental disabilities anyway. I was intrigued to read about emotional development as it pertains to people with mild intellectual disability and as it pertains to me in some way too. The consultant psychologist assigned to my case in my care-finding process, said I function emotionally at a 16-month-old level. This explains a lot of why I act the way I do. Interestingly though, we don’t have an alter who identifies with this age.

In short, I think every age and stage in development has its beautiful sides and its ugly sides. Childhood means your parents still have a lot of control over you, but it means you have relatively few responsibilities. Adolescence and young adulthood come with increased responsibility and freedom. I don’t know yet what middle age or old age will bring, but I’m confident I’ll find the beauty in it.