Thursday, September 25, 2014

The GREAT BIG Surprise on Henry's Birthday and How My Boys Came to My Rescue

When I started blogging a few years ago, I really just wanted to chronicle the life of our family, especially our children, as best as I could, so that I could share our happenings with family and friends who lived far away.  The blog has become our virtual scrapbook.  Sometimes I'll find the boys scrolling back through old posts, reminiscing together, their favorite stories being of sporting events and birthdays, so writing about those two things is really important to me.

I love our birthday traditions, which always include birthday breakfast and a homemade cake of the special boy's choosing.  It's so much fun for all of us to celebrate the life of the honored person for an entire day, and while we don't throw big themed parties with pin-worthy goodies, we try our best to make the day as special as possible for the birthday boy.
A couple of weeks ago our son, Henry, turned 7 and, because of a series of events and personal struggles I had faced throughout the week leading up to his birthday, I was truly unprepared for his big day.

I mean it when I say that I really had NOTHING ready - no gifts, no cake, no ingredients for a family dinner - nothing.  Every attempt I made to shop and plan seemed to be snatched up by shuttling children to football and piano lessons or trying my level best not to drown in this new homeschool program we're navigating, then there was a day given to attend my cousin's funeral, and most of all our poor little Joseph, who is suffering from the inner workings of a tooth trying to break free, needing to be held all of the time.

I know deep down that for every mother, birthdays are not about the things, the cake, the presents, the parties, but they are about what those things collectively represent, and that is the LOVE we have for our child. I cannot help but want to wrap all of that love up into something wonderful that says, "Hey you! Do you know how special you are? Do you know how you have changed my life and made it more beautiful than I could ever imagine??"

The week slipped away from me, and I soon found myself at Friday, the night before Henry's birthday, slumped over in exhaustion and frustration at the supper table wondering what I was going to do to make tomorrow special for him.

I've procrastinated from writing about his birthday, because my heart is still a bit guilt-weary over my lack of preparedness for Henry's day.  But, after pondering it all in my heart for the past couple of weeks, I believe that God is calling me to a particular conviction of heart, that being that I surrender the idealistic vision of motherhood that I have set for myself. Because, in the surrender and acceptance of my limitations, other individuals, namely my children, can help, can share, can shine.

This letting go is not a giving up, but rather it's letting others in, those who may benefit from being allowed the opportunity to love, to act virtuously, to discover strengths and gifts they didn't know they had, and to feel places in their heart that they were unaware of being stretched with generosity.

When I post about the boys' birthdays, I try to write in detail all of the things I want to remember from their special day.  This year, on Henry's birthday, I thought everything was going to be an utter failure because I had not done all of the things I usually do for birthdays.
{Thanks to my friend, Mary, for sharing this with me so many years ago!}
But, to my wonderful surprise, it was better than anything I could have planned, a birthday I hope never to forget, because it involved all of the boys in such a beautiful way.  I couldn't see it then, because I was so blinded by my own unwillingness to look past what I wasn't able to do for my son, but it was my very own limitations that allowed the boys to step in and shine, to share, to love, to give, and that is something my perfect cake or party or diner could never replace.

The night before Henry's big day, Steve came upstairs after tucking the boys in and said to me, You're not going to believe this, honey, but Ben and Andrew actually want to pool their savings together to buy Henry a go-cart.

Wait.  What??

He continued, Ben has a classmate who is selling his mini go-cart.  It's used and needs some work, but they really want to buy it for him.

I didn't know what to say.  I knew Henry would love such a gift.  And, I knew that their generosity would rescue me from a late night trip to town in search of something I could only hope Henry would enjoy.

The next morning, everyone was up early, eager to dive into the birthday breakfast traditions.  I was so busy scurrying about the kitchen, I had hardly noticed the two gifts that were thoughtfully placed by the "You Are Special plate" just for Henry.
As we ate, I couldn't stop wondering where the gifts came from and who had placed them there. Even though I usually take the boys shopping so that they can each buy something small for the birthday boy, I believe that they saw how overwhelmed I was last week and really wanted to step in on their own and help.

When it came time for Henry to open his presents, the first surprise was from George.  Earlier in the week he had set out for the library on his bicycle but, along the way, made a detour to the local gas station to buy Henry a pop and some candy! I had no idea!
The second gift was from Andrew, who has a wonderful collection of Hot Wheels, something Henry admires very much.  Andrew bought Henry is own Hot Wheels case and a few cars to go inside, so that he can begin his own collection.  The two of them have a very special bond, and seeing Henry's joyful expression upon receiving Andrew's gift was priceless.
After birthday breakfast, Benedict snuck up behind Henry and blindfolded him announcing that he had one more surprise for him. As Ben led his little brother outside, we all gathered around anticipating Henry's reaction to his BIG gift.
I think the entire neighborhood could hear him squealing with delight! 
While buying the go-cart was a truly generous gift on the part of Ben and Andrew, the greater sacrifice for those big brothers was one of pride. They have been asking Steve and me for the very same gift ever since they were Henry's age, and we've always said no.  They are saving every penny for a four-wheeler to share, but were willing to give up a chunk of their savings so that a younger brother could receive something that they themselves had only wished for.

Steve and I were incredibly touched by their love. Witnessing Ben and Andrew's delight in surprising Henry with such an amazing gift is something I will never forget.
The boys spent the rest of the morning tinkering around on the new "toy," and took turns driving it around the neighborhood.  I had hoped to get Henry's cake baked before we had to leave for Andrew's football game, but Joey and his swollen gums kept me out of the kitchen.

After the game, Steve must have felt, through my silence, all the disappointment stirring inside of me. (You know, Mom guilt, it's the very worst kind.) He gently took my hand and said, "You're a great mom, Honey, and today has been a great day. Don't worry, Henry is very happy."

So, I set my expectations free.  I let the presents and the party and the cake and the dinner all go.  We went out for burgers with Steve's family that night and, in lieu of a cake, Steve took Henry to a local bakery and let him pick out a cupcake for everyone to enjoy after supper.  He loved it.
After supper my birthday boy came came around the table to sit on my lap.  Holding him close made me feel so much better.  I whipsered in his ear, "I'm sorry I didn't get your special cake made." He turned around, put his nose up to mine and said, "That's okay, Mom, you can just bake me a cake anytime you want, and I'll love it, because your cakes are the best!"



  1. I love this! Happy Birthday to your boy! He has some great brothers!

  2. What a sweet, sweet boy. I love how they always say the sweetest things when we really need to hear them.

  3. I don't think you have to worry about being a good mom. Your boy's kindness and ability to give says more than a birthday cake ever could! You are doing a great job of raising kind, considerate giving and thoughtful boys. And it sounds like Henry had a wonderful birthday!

  4. Serious tear-jerker, right here! What truly lovely, loving boys you have - from your hubby, all the way down to that sweet baby! You're doing it all right, mama - that family of yours has their priorities straight and generous hearts to match!

  5. Oh Susan, what precious blessings those boys are. You are a fantastic mom. I know it feels like we are failing when we don't reach the expectations we have for ourselves. I know because I've been "failing" big time with the birthdays this fall. But as I had to remind myself, not one person looks unhappy except me. Our youngest was thrilled that his sister made a purple cake for him, and she was happy to do it. It was only me that was disappointed, because I didn't make it.
    Happy Birthday to Henry!

  6. this made me cry. i love how brothers love each other - what a sweet (and hopeful) preview of the future for this tired mama's heart.

  7. Oh, Susan, what a sweet post this is. It made me cry. Lately I have been so overwhelmed with fatigue and that sense of futility...but your post has been such a balm to my tired heart. Thank you, thank you. God bless you all.

  8. This was the sweetest. Their love for each other makes me so happy. You're doing a beautiful job, mama! So beautiful! Happy Birthday, to Henry! :)

  9. The fact that Ben and Andrew used their money to buy that incredible gift for Henry speaks volumes about you and Steve!!! I have tears running down my face after reading the rest of this story! I love that George and Andrew found a way to get a gift for Henry on their own!!!
    And the dinner and cupcakes - perfect. Henry is right - you can bake a cake another day/another year and he will love it because you made it!!!

  10. Susan, this made me cry. What amazing boys you have - their heartfelt gifts and their taking care of you makes me pray we're raising young boys just like them!

  11. I think what your sons did says SO much about the kind of mother you are--it's obvious that you are teaching your children to cherish one another and to think of others before themselves. Sounds like the best present ever--for you, not the birthday boy!

  12. tears.
    Susan, the proof is in the pudding. YOU are a GOOD mom.

  13. What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing! You have good-hearted sons and are a wonderful mom! Happy belated birthday, Henry!

  14. This made me cry!!!!! I struggle with wanting to get everything done and I only have three! You're a beautiful woman and sharing your perspective really helps other mamas like me!


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