“This is The Life We Chose,” or Your Birthday isn’t About You

Happy Birthday!There is screaming coming from the basement. Both my wife and the 8 year-old are irate with the process of undoing her cornrows. I can’t help, because the 5-year old and I are washing her hair. This has a 50/50 chance of ending in tears and we still have nail clipping to conduct, not to mention actually styling her hair, which she wants me to understand that I will have no part in doing. This is fine by me, but given my wife and oldest are 45 minutes into what will be a 2+ hour ordeal, I’m thinking I might have to jump in, which will ensure that there will be crying. This is far from the relaxing day I had in mind.

We, using the royal “we” here but I mean me, still need to get dinner prepared, since my wife and I are going out for the evening, and although it’s only 11 am, I can see that we are rapidly running out of time. The sitter, that is my mother, has to be picked up. We have to eat a preemptive celebratory meal a sing and “Happy Birthday” with her, my sister and her kids, whom will probably be running late, because it’s my birthday.

An hour prior, I was eating home-made buttermilk biscuits, marveling at the craft birthday cards from the girls, and modeling my new watch. We hadn’t made any firm plans for Sunday morning, but my wife and I discussed taking the girls out for a bicycle ride, maybe going to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival or just walking to a park for a bit. Our evening plans won’t start until 6 pm and, while I need to swing by and see my dad, it could be incorporated into the sitter/mom pickup (they live less than 5 miles apart). It was going to be a picturesque vision of a Dad’s birthday. Adoring family, loving parents, and an opportunity to be seen by people hither and yon, awash in that birthday glory.

Fast forward 2 hours, I’m in the kitchen frying chicken (because the girls like fried chicken and rarely get it) and roasting veggies. The 8 year-old walks past me crying, with ¾ of her hair free, but a painful looking ¼ still bound tightly to her skull. Her mother curses under her breath. The 5 year-old, reading the tea leaves, decides to do her own hair and makes a half-way decent bun. Initially, I offer assistant. But I still have to shower, visit my dad, pick up Grandma, rush through the birthday crap and get back in time for a 6 pm show. “The bun looks good,” I say and I keep moving. At this point, my alternate vision of maybe an hour to myself with a cigar on the porch while the ladies run an errand is shot to hell, too.

This is the life I chose, that my wife and I chose when we decided to have children. Their hair and grooming don’t care about our birthdays, nor  being “Easy like Sunday morning.”

After another tearful visit from the 8 year-old with accusations of sadism, the rest of the hair goes quickly—washing, conditioning, and braiding are done by 2 pm. It’s apparent that my wife won’t be joining us for the family expedition. In a moment of clarity, I texted my dad and my sister to move back our anticipated arrival time. The passable job the 5 year-old did with her hair has been lost to multiple bun/ponytail attempts and now it’s all about the Doc McStuffin headband containing the lion’s mane. It’s Sunday afternoon now, and we still have to hit the road. And no sooner than we get into the car, both girls fall asleep.

  • Victorio Loubriel

    Hmmmmm… It seems to me you once thought yourself immortal as I recall and couldn’t believe this life wasn’t awaiting you…LOL..i.e marriage, mortgage, children, them, them and more about them..lol…the least of which the loss of hair…LOL either due to life or all those “Thems”… However, as Adam Clayton Powell once said, “Keep the faith Baby”. Meaning there’s more to come you haven’t anticipated….LOL. There’s an old expression, “we live two lives, the life we wish for and the life we actually lead”… Things that make you go HMMMMMM

    • Brian Joyner

      Your memory is too long, Vic. 23 and immortal was a looooooong time ago.

      • Victorio Loubriel

        Brian, it’s more than my memory very long..LOL..It’s more that I’m a witness and everyone wishes my memory to be shorter…LOL…

  • Michael A. Hill

    Sharing this with other dads via Facebook. Important to remember we’re here to serve our families, not the other way around. Stay strong, let’s go to 3 Stars and drink beer and complain.

    • Brian Joyner

      This is what I’m talking about!