Let Them Pick

Thursday was Norah’s 8th birthday. We celebrated as a family with cake and ice cream over the weekend. But on the day of, I got home from work about 5pm and offered to take her out for anything she wanted. I offered pizza, ice cream, pizza and ice cream. I offered to take her to a movie. Even the dreaded McDonald’s

“Anything,” I said.

“Mac and cheese,” she said. “I want to watch shows on my iPad and eat mac and cheese.”

I’ll be honest, I tried to talk her out of it. This sounded like a pretty boring birthday. Her grandparents had already taken her shopping earlier in the day. So perhaps she’d had her fill. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I was really tempted to take her out anyway. To insist she do something more. Part of it was because I wanted to feel like I’d given her something special on her special day.

But this wasn’t about me.

It was about Norah.

As a father, I do this sometimes. I think all parents do. We try to make our children do what we think is enjoyable. We try to define their childhood, to shape it how we think it should look. We try to force them to play sports we enjoy, or watch the movies we loved as a kid.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things we must make our children do: homework, chores, apologizes… those are the things that make a child into a responsible adult.

But when it comes to what our children enjoy, and how they spend their birthday, that really should be up to them.

I’m trying to listen to what my kids want to do, rather then telling them what I think they should do.

Because the fact is, Norah, even at the age of 8, has the right to choose how to enjoy her special day.

So I made mac and cheese. She watched Mickey Mouse’s Club House. She enjoyed every moment of it.

It’s not how I would choose to spend my birthday, but that doesn’t matter. I gave her what she wanted.

That evening, before bedtime, I asked if she had a good birthday. She smiled and nodded.

“Good,” I said. “That makes me happy.”


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