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A friend of mine begins celebrating her birthday well in advance of the actual day. About a month beforehand, she starts unabashedly reminding anyone and everyone that there’s a big day coming. She plans. She posts to social media. She makes sure it’s the biggest and best thing ever.

I used to openly poke fun at her for this. It’s 2017, we’re mature adults, and civilized people don’t take the day off work because they’re turning 32. But this year, I took a page out of her playbook and decided to take a day for myself. After all, isn’t life hard enough without pausing to celebrate on a semi-regular basis? A birthday seems like a solid excuse for such a celebration; I can’t envision many folks turning out for a “my son ate all of his peas” party.

While a party isn’t really my thing, I’m all about sleeping in and meandering to an afternoon hour-long massage, followed by a long, quiet lunch by myself at a white tablecloth restaurant, where I could finish that book I started a billion years ago. This year, I wouldn’t even need to concern myself with childcare – my birthday fell mid-week, on a regular daycare day. It was kismet.

Or not. Five days before the big celebration of me, my son started coughing. It was a gross, hacking cough, laced with the ominous threat of staying home from daycare. Twenty-four hours later, my daughter fell victim to it, and suddenly my self-celebration was in mortal danger of falling apart.

With a heavy heart, I called to cancel all of my plans, resigning myself to a birthday steeped in angry self-pity. Thus, I celebrated the first day of my 32nd year making bowls of chicken soup, wiping runny noses, guzzling Emergen-C, and generally trying not to think about what I was missing. Such is life with kids.

It wasn’t until that evening, with both kids finally tucked into bed and a warm cup of tea in my hand, that I realized maybe I had it all wrong. I desperately wanted to spend my birthday pampering myself, celebrating me and how amazing I am, and how deserving of everything going my way.

But really, I had nothing to do with my birth day. I had no hand in putting myself on this earth, and it seems rather silly to congratulate myself and receive gifts for an event that happened outside of my control. But the fact that I’m here, that I got the chance to walk this earth, meet my husband, have these kids, and experience the love of family and friends – that is something worth celebrating.

And I don’t really need a massage to do that.

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