In our family, you have some decisions to make on your birthday.
Do you want a one-afternoon birthday party with your friends, or do you want a two-day something for the four of us?
And do you wish for presents to open? Or do you want an experience to enjoy?
Probably, it's possible to achieve all four. But money only goes so far, and your birthday should look the way you want it to.
And also, I'm not up for chasing the moon to make my children happy, and decisions are a good exercise in learning their love languages and personal preferences.
Lesson learned: I have two boys who value quality time.
(Plus, it doesn't hurt that they know their grandparents will come through on the wish lists. Let's just be real.)
So, this weekend, Tucker turned twelve. (Twelve. That's as tall as me, in case you were wondering.) We spent two days at Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park in Colorado Springs. Super fun in every single way. Especially on Day One.
On the morning of Day Two, the boys were up and ready to hit the slides and the wave pool, but I had migrated to that place of Content to Watch.
I mean, you get it, right? It just wasn't practical anymore. I needed to get the room ready, pack us up to leave, do all the Mom Things. And I was kind of a little weary of hanging out with half-naked strangers.
Plus, my swimsuit was wet. Say no more.
I got dressed for the day, in items that were all fresh and dry and not swimmish. And my children gave me The Look.
"You're not swimming?"
"I don't think so. But I'll hang out with you and get the room packed up and stuff."
"But you won't be swimming."
Their words hung in the air, looking for clarity.
"I don't… think so."
Peter, who understands practicality, who knew our timeline for checking out of the hotel on time, and whose swimsuit was also wet, said, "Hey, babe? Just come swim. Be a team player."
Sometimes you realize you're being practical and ridiculous and everything you feared you'd become when you grew up.
Sometimes you need someone to say, "Hey, what you're doing? Maybe don't."
So I put on the soggy swimsuit. And I swam with my boys.
We tackled the four-person family-slide, and we positioned ourselves to send Peter down first and backward, every time. We howled, both with laughter and like wolves. We raced each other down the tube slide, and Tucker won first place every time. (Which he personally considered a bonus birthday gift.) We played. We splashed. We laughed.
That last hour held some of the best moments of the whole weekend. And I almost missed it.
I almost forgot that my son asked for an experience. I almost forgot that he asked me to show up. I almost forgot that some things are worse than putting on the wet swimsuit. Missing out is way worse.
In the wise and faithful words of Lee Ann Womack: "If you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance."
Or in this case … swim.