Happy birthday to my daughter

Image credit: iStock

Mummy Musings is a fortnightly column where Elisabeth Lee navigates the ups and downs of bringing up her daughter.

It’s the little one’s birthday next week, and as I sit down to pen this fortnightly column, my upcoming birthday week to-do list is weighing heavily at the back of my mind. There’s cake to order, balloons to pick up, sleepovers to plan and a big birthday dinner to cook. I have a busy work week ahead, and my husband works a six-day week in winter, as he juggles both the demands of a growing business as well as shifts up on our local ski mountain. It’s a little daunting, and it is taking up a lot of my mental bandwidth this week.

It seems a lot but in comparison to the lengths some other parents go to celebrate their kids’ birthdays, it really isn’t that much.

If you’d been reading closely, you’d have noticed a few missing items. No big birthday party planned. No expensive children’s entertainment booked. No pony rides. No clowns. No crazy amounts of presents to shop for and gift wrap – in fact, no presents at all.

Just as Christmas for us is a time for reconnecting (and not presents), and Chinese New Year is a time to reaffirm our culture and traditions (and not a time for collecting ang pow), similarly, birthdays are a time to celebrate the year that has passed, and to look to the year ahead. Most of all, birthdays are a day to celebrate a fleeting magical moment in time.

Thankfully, we’ve never really done a big birthday do for little A, and she doesn’t really go to many birthday parties where the focus is on the presents, as opposed to simply having a good time together. Thus, her expectations are minimal. A few weeks ago, we sat down together to plan her birthday. “Think of things you’d like to do with the people you love,” I suggested.

Here is the list she came up with – all by herself, handwritten in shaky pink marker:

A shiny card
Stay up ALL night (emphasis hers)

Pretty perfect, don’t you think? I’ve ordered a cake, and we’ve bought a few new games to play on her big day. We’ve asked families and friends for shiny birthday cards and we’ve invited a small group over to dinner on the night itself. We’ve pencilled in a few sleepover dates with her best friends. And maybe, just maybe, if all goes well, we will stay up all night.

So, happy birthday to my wonderful little A, who is three going on four but really going on 40. She’s a wise soul and we are so lucky that she is letting us join her on this awesome ride. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!


Elisabeth Lee is proof that it is never too late to consider a second, third or even fourth career, having come to both motherhood and writing late in life. She occasionally freelances and can be reached at

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