Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Let's have a party!

“It’s teddy’s birthday, it’s teddy’s birthday!” bounced my four-year-old onto my bed.
“What, Abigail?” I manage to say through my sleep mustered daze that 6:50 in the morning brings.
“It’s Cinderella teddy’s birthday, Mama! Cinderella teddy’s birthday!”
Sitting up in bed, I look into those intensely blue eyes that sparkle even at 6:50 a.m. and try to assess the situation. “It’s Cinderella teddy’s birthday, you say?”
“Yes, mama, it’s her birthday, and we have to have a party for her! Maybe a tea party…or cupcakes….or we could…”

Within this short little conversation, my mind is spinning, processing about a million miles a second, or as fast as it can at 6:50 in the morning.  My normal mom thoughts would be, “Absolutely, no way, are we having a birthday party for your stuffed animal.   I’m not falling for this trap.  You literally have about a hundred stuffed animals.  Next thing I know, we would be having a birthday party every day of the week for your animals,” But, something stopped me from my typical practical Mom response.  Some call it Mother’s Intuition.  I don’t know if it was all that, but I do know that something in my gut said that this was something she needed.  For some reason this is important to her.  So, throwing all things practical aside, I went with my gut and responded to that crazy morning bed-head little girl staring up at me with,

“Well, you are absolutely right!  It is her birthday.  Of course we can have a party for Cinderella teddy.  Right after Ms. Sonya’s today, we will go get cupcakes so we can celebrate.” 

Mom’s of the world out there could be shaking their heads at me right now saying, “Well, you’ve done it now! You’ve set yourself up for daily birthday parties.”  But, there are parts to my processing and to this little girl that you don’t know.  Yes, my Abigail has probably a hundred stuffed animals.  However, this particular stuffed animal, Cinderella teddy, is a very special one.  She even refers to her as “Daddy’s teddy” often.  This teddy bear was a gift from a very special friend of mine who had Build-a-Bear teddies made for both of my girls before Trent’s last deployment.  These bears have a message with his voice in them, and he gave them to the girls the night before he left, the last night they ever spent together.  Cinderella teddy is not an ordinary stuffed animal…she is special. 

Along with the specialness of the bear, I know that the 1 year mark is literally days away.  Other military widows call this day their spouses “Angelversary.”  Abigail doesn’t have the concept of dates and times, like I do, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t “feel” it.   And, that is exactly what Ms. Sonya, the girls and my counselor, told me yesterday afternoon as I discussed “teddy’s birthday party” with her.  She absolutely agreed with me 100% about the party.  She reiterated some things that I already know from my past year’s work with her.  Abigail is processing big, big things, and she’s doing so in ways that a four-year-old would. 

When a major, important person of your life is no longer with you, your brain will trigger you to think of them.  This happens to me all the time, but I don’t always pick up on my girls’ triggers, because they are different than mine, most of the time.  Right now, Abigail’s brain is triggering her to know it’s getting close to the year mark.  She knows it’s warm again, like it was then.  Flowers are everywhere, like they were then.  She get’s to wear summer clothes, like she did then.  Birds chirp and wake her up in the morning, like they did then.  Typical everyday May things, are stirring things up for her, but she has the right idea....let’s celebrate!  Why not?  Let’s have a party, get cupcakes, and smile.  We don’t have to spend the year mark in a desolate stupor.  It’s his “Angelversary!” If that isn’t something to celebrate, then I don’t know what is. 

I can’t explain it very well, but this “first” is different for me.  I’ve talked about it in my own counseling sessions.  I spend weeks, with my counselor, preparing for “scheduled” hard days.  These are days that you know are going to trigger you like crazy, due to the type of day it is.  Such as; Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, Father’s Day, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.  I cannot begin to tell you the anxiety I have when approaching these days.  Sometimes, I do really very well on these days.  Other times, my preparation falters and I’m taken off guard when my plan of how to handle things is skewed, and I’m hit in the gut the day before or the day after the scheduled day, like my anniversary.  I was prepared for the day.  But, what I didn’t know is at 8:15 the morning before my anniversary, something would trigger me (I’m still not sure what it was), and my whole world would collapse around me, as all of my emotions came slamming into my gut at once.  I was down for three days, as distant and as far away mentally and emotionally as I have been in a very long time.  So, it would make sense that this “first,” his “Angelversary” would carry the same anxiety.  But, for some reason, as of right now, it hasn’t.  I’m okay.  That doesn’t mean it won’t change, but as of now, let’s go with it.  I seem to have a peace about it, and it makes me smile.  It’s going to be his first “Angelversary!”  The day he saw Jesus for the very first time! How can we not smile about that? I think that they probably celebrate up in heaven, so we should do the same here.  And Rhea would NEVER pass up an opportunity to have cake, so neither should we.

Abigail has it right.  Let’s have a party!  We can have a tea party…or cupcakes…or…you name it, whatever makes you happy! It's a much healthier way to handle the day.  We miss him like crazy, but heaven, with Jesus, is a way better place than here.   

I’m glad I listened to my gut this time.  It not only helped her continue to process, but it made me think, too.  A lot actually, hence why I woke at 4:30 in the morning processing myself and writing this.  Oh, triggers, we have got to have a talk about timing.  :)

So, what DO you do, when your four-year-old tells you that it’s her Cinderella teddy’s birthday?  You take the time, and $10 for Smallcakes cupcakes, and you give Cinderella teddy a birthday party she’ll never forget.


  1. thanks for getting me a brighter look at today and life's everyday struggles. You have helped me realize that we need to celebrate, even the bad because God has put these things in our life for a purpose! Leah, you are beyond AMAZING, "celebrate" big with those precious little girls!

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Leah. Joe and I have been thinking a lot about Rhea lately. This is a good reminder to smile and celebrate, but also that it's okay to be sad.