March 21, 2001
Watching The Tots


I thought I had this eighteenth-birthday-stuff all figured out, this time around.

Fifteen months ago, when Daughter #1 celebrated her eighteenth birthday, I went to the local mall and bought her a watch: a lovely, expensive watch, in her favorite silver tones to match the rest of her jewelry. She hadn't requested a watch for her birthday. I got the distinct impression that she didn't want a watch for her birthday. But I bought a watch for her anyway, mainly because it seemed like such a SSsweet, sentimental gift for a loving mother to bestow upon her daughter on the occasion of her eighteenth birthday and stuff. And even though I entertained no real hope of ever actually seeing her WEAR her groovy new watch, in this or any other lifetime, still I carefully packaged it up and shipped it off to her in TicTac, via Fed ExTriple-Urgent-*We-Lose-It/You-Pay-For-It-Anyway* delivery, along with a modest check and a carefully chosen Hallmark.

"Happy Birthday," I scribbled in her card. "Take your watch out of the box and wear it once in a while when I'm in town, OK?"

Surprise! Not only did Jaymi like her new watch, but she actually wears it on a semi-regular basis. So when my younger daughter's eighteenth birthday rolled around this year, I figured I would do the same thing for her. In fact, I think I was hoping this was going to turn into another one of those traditions I am so ridiculously fond of: in this case, the *Mom Gives Her Children A Watch On Their Eighteenth Birthday (Whether They Want One Or Not!)* Tradition.

But Daughter #2 -- Kacie -- had other ideas.

All three of my children accept the fact that their the cake is filled with safety pins mom is notoriously anal when it comes to traditions ... especially any traditions involving birthdays. I may have had my shortcomings in other important Momhood Departments, through the years. (My idea of a "fresh vegetable" was a new bottle of Heinz. I was never a stickler for regular bedtimes. I probably used the *F-Word* more than was strictly fudking necessary.) But if there is one thing the Tots had plenty of, during their growing-up years, it was tradition.

Especially the birthday kind.

There was the *Waking Up to The Beatles* Tradition (Mom sneaking out of bed at 5 a.m. and playing "Birthday" at aquarium-shattering volume). 

There was the *Mom Makes Your Birthday Card By Hand* Tradition. 

There was the *Anything You Want For Dinner (As Long As It Isn't Pork Chops or Burger King)* Tradition ... the *Scotch-Taping Your Birthday Balloons to the Ceiling Fan Just To Drive The Cats Crazy* Tradition ... the *Taking At Least One Embarrassing Photo Of You In A Stoopid Party Hat* Tradition ...

... and of course the much-ballyhooed *Loading Up The Birthday Cake With More Metal Than An Orthodontist's Office* tradition.

Growing up, the Tots had *tradition* coming out of their ears.

So it really isn't all that strange that I would seize upon the idea of the 18th Birthday Gift Watch as yet another opportunity to lovingly but firmly ram a little more *tradition* down their collective throats (and out their collective ears). The problem, of course, is that sometimes I forget that one Tot is not a mirror image of the other -- especially where my two daughters are concerned.

You can dress them up in matching red corduroy overalls and identical pigtails, but that doesn't make them twins.

Anyway. A little bird warned Kacie what I was planning to do for her birthday this year. This prompted her to immediately run to the computer and break her longstanding rule of never ever ever contacting her mother in any way, shape or form, under any circumstances, no matter what, even after an EARTHQUAKE  ... unless it sounds like Mom is about to buy her something stoopid for her birthday: SS

" ... Geez, i've been so busy with D.E.C.A and life in general that i almost forgot i've got a big birthday coming up," she wrote. "I know you got Jaymi a nice watch and stuff for her 18th b-day, but i'd much rather prefer something i can use and won't be likely to lose in a couple months anyway ... "

She suggested, instead, that I send her a mall gift certificate or money to buy clothes with. "Call me if you want to talk about this," she wrote. I was so dazzled by her diplomacy -- so flubbergasted by her finesse -- that I couldn't possibly feel miffed or annoyed or disappointed that she was shooting down my fabulous Birthday Watch idea. I called her immediately and said Fine, no problem, I understand: what do you want, then?  ...  even though I already knew the answer to the question.

(And even though I already had my checkbook in my hand.)

I was fine with it, though. I really was. I love Kacie very much, and I want her to enjoy her birthday. This isn't about what *I* want ... at least, not this time.

I must admit to one minor Crisis Moment on Friday night, when David and I stopped at the mall to pick up a couple of "extra" presents to send along with her check. (It's not possible for me to simply send a check for a Tot Birthday. It's written into my contract that there must be a minimum of two ridiculously overpriced/completely useless impulse purchases that they will hate on sight, preferably bad perfume and/or tasteful jewelry, included in each birthday package I send to TicTac.) I was standing in the cosmetics department, debating between the Double Mocha Fudge Cologne and the string of freshwater pearls, when a nearby display of Guess watches caught my eye.

"Ohhhhhhh," I sighed longingly. "Look. Watches."

"She doesn't want a watch for her birthday," David reminded me. "You promised her."

I nodded. I did promise. And a good Mommy keeps her promises, especially when it comes to birthday stuff. But the watches were sooooo pretty ......

"Besides," David added, "doesn't she have graduation coming up soon?"

Oh my god! That's right!

She DOES have her high school graduation coming up ... in just three short months!!

I already know what I'm going to get her for a graduation present.

* * Happy Birthday, Kacie! * *

more kacie-related stuff:
eighteen years ago: welcome to the world
one year ago: picture perfect

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