We had another birthday this week.
The Resident Adolescent is now 20 years old. Does this mean I need to stop calling him an adolescent? Perhaps not, I think this stage goes on well into the 20’s for boys and probably even longer for Spanish boys.
We went out for lunch, just the three of us.
I was mulling over what to do about his present as I seriously wasn’t in the mood to buy him anything and yet it felt mean and cruel to give him nothing.
I always have the same problems here with celebrations because things are not done as I would do them – partly because we are in a different country, and we are not in a normal family, and lastly because our particular step-family is strangely devoid of cosy rituals.
Birthdays for me mean
1. A cake – preferable chocolate
2. Birthday cards
3. Birthday presents
4. Singing Happy Birthay at some point in the day
My heart wants to do all these things for him and to make a fuss of him just as if he were my own child.
In our strange little threesome we have these problems
1. Resident Adolescent doesn’t like cake and if I made one there is a strong possibility he would ignore it completely
2. No-one in Spain does birthday cards. He would open it, frown in puzzlement and then drop it somewhere to be forgotten for ever.
3. The only birthday presents he wants are things he choses. Money is best but somehow it sticks in my craw giving him anything when I have never seen him give his father or his mother a single gift at Christmas or for their birthdays. Surely this is odd?
4. People sing Happy Birthday, in Spanish of course, but normally only at a party. The idea of going up to his bedroom in the morning and singing to him is frankly, ludicrous.
So the day passed and we didn’t do anything apart from greet him with a kiss and say Happy Birthday. I felt terrible as usual as it seems so unloving and mean. Yet his father doesn’t make a fuss of him either and after 5 years I am tired of making a huge effort only to be rebuffed in the end.
But we did go out to lunch the day after and it turned out well. I thought about it a lot beforehand and came up with a plan. Here is what happened.
1. We went to a restaurant in the town centre and walked there together – chatting about everyday things
2. I asked everyone to say three words that described how they were feeling at that moment.
Father – hungry, happy, loved
Res.Ad – hungry, hung-over, happy
Me – hungry, happy, anxious
Then I told Res.Ad that I had a quiz for him. He loves games so lit up. It was a series of questions that asked him about facts about me. I was curious to know what he knew about me. We have lived together 5 years but he shows so little interest and I share so little that we are still virtually strangers. One point for each question answered correctly. what I didn’t tell him until the end was that each point was worth 1 euro. There were 28 possible correct answers. I even gave him a second go after we had told him the answers that he didn’t get right. In the end he had 23 points and got 23 euros for his birthday.
How many sisters and brothers do I have? He made a wild guess but it was wrong
Can you name one of more of them? Total failure
What is the name of my friend here? Failure here too but he knew her husband’s name.
What sort of tea do I like? A surprise this one – he correctly said, Earl Grey
Have I ever smoked? Wrong here too, he couldn’t remember that I smoked for my first two years here.
Was good fun and everyone was laughing. I felt quite pleased with myself that I managed to show him I am a person he could know more about, he showed me he noticed more than I had imagined, I felt fine about giving him his prize money and he got a birthday present.
What do you think? Would you have just got him a present and not made such a big deal of it? Am I mean to hesitate about giving him a present just because he never reciprocates?
Small steps forward make me feel positive and hopeful but the everyday grind still tires me.