Why I cry when I hear “Happy Birthday”
Kids really do grow up in the blink of an eye.
As a snooze-deprived new parent, at about 3am, when you’re rocking, bouncing (and wishing) your baby to sleep and failing… you might try to console yourself with a “It’s okay, this will be the hardest part of parenting”.

Sorry to burst your caffeine-dependent personal bubble but you’re terribly wrong. The things you live through, and the tasks you need to accomplish just change. Oh, and spoiler alert? You don’t get much choice in how they get harder, but you do start to think that maybe being up all hours and doing the rock-bounce-pace-the-room vibe weren’t that difficult, after all.

When my kid was a tiny mite, she got super sick. Pneumonia, contracted after a short stay in hospital for electrocution. Yes, really. Freak accident at daycare – a scary time, but one she survived and thrived beyond.

Into about week three of Pneumonia, after it had swapped from one lung, to the next and then finally taken over both lungs, I remember thinking “this is the worst it’ll be”.

I was, of course, very wrong

We’re at her pre-school. She’s wearing a cardboard crown that’s been bedazzled with gold-sprayed macaroni and liberally sprinkled with glitter. Her class bursts into song and I choke back the tears as they enthusiastically serenade us with the “Happy Birthday” song. Her teacher chides me and says: “Moms usually don’t cry when it’s Happy Birthday time, but every year, you do, the moment they burst into song”. I can’t explain why – even if someone sings it on a television programme, I burst into tears. Anyone singing “Happy Birthday” anywhere, at any time, reduces me to a puddle.

She turns six and I wonder where the first five years went. I’m lying awake, as she wards off a fever at 2am, and think: “this letting go will be the hardest part of parenting”.

I was, of course, very wrong

Fast forward a little later and as I walk out of her Grade 1 classroom for the first time, I’m in tears, thinking: “this will be hardest part of parenting”. Skip across to about a year later, when she’s performing in a school production. I’m shocked that the shy but talkative little girl I sit across from at the dinner table each night, is speaking confidently into a microphone as a crowd sits rapt, listening to her every word.

Suddenly we’re thrust into the world of exam revision, tests and school projects – a regular slice of senior primary life. And as she painstakingly constructs this week’s show and tell speech, I look on, wondering when she learnt to spell (and correctly use in a sentence!) the word “laboriously”.

Time slips along to now, where I’ve got a list of names in front of me, and I’m desperately trying to design a birthday invitation that says “fun but not childish”. She’s turning ten and has turned down every idea about a magician, jumping castle and even a bubble machine. “I’m too old for that now”, she says. And I think to myself: “this part, where I can’t rely on the apparently childish things to entertain her? What do I do now? This will be the hardest part”.

On the eve of her tenth birthday, I know we’ll sing that “Happy Birthday” song and I’ll think to myself: “there’s only 8 years left until she’s considered an adult. This is so hard - this is the most difficult part. We only have the teenage years left, all this exuberant childhood of dress up and drawing bunny rabbits is gone”… and, again, I’ll choke back the tears.

But I’m far enough along this parenting path, to know that my whimsical mutterings mean nothing. If I think this is hard at ten, imagine what will be going through my head on the day she finishes school or – shivers – moves out of home for the very first time.

And that’s why I cry every time someone sings “Happy Birthday”.

How do you feel about your kids growing up?

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