My son’s second birthday happened without me. If he had been my first child, this would have gutted me. Because nobody imagines they will ever miss important moments in the lives of people you love, especially ones who came out of your vagina (or sunroof).
But Remy is my third child and by the time you get to number three, you are more sanguine. Your expectations for life going the way you’d planned are considerably lower. You’ve marinated in reality enough to know that the universe gives no f**ks about your plans.
In the days before my son’s birthday, after months of begging, I’d finally been granted an interview with then Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It was during the 2010 election campaign and the only available time she could sit down with me was during a flight she was taking from Melbourne to Sydney that was leaving at 7am. If I wanted to talk to her, I had to be on that plane. This meant I had to fly interstate the night before and my son would wake up without me on the day he turned two.
Kids have no clue what a birthday is when they turn one. It’s not until number two that they work out it means something – cake, attention and new toys. Do you remember your second birthday? If you do, it’s probably because you’ve seen photos of it and created a memory. You don’t really. That’s what I kept telling myself when it became clear I wouldn’t be there for my son. I won’t pretend I didn’t feel some guilt. Emotions ran high actually.
But my husband, ever practical in the way I find men are with these sorts of things, had a great solution: let's just move his birthday. It's not like our toddler had a Google calendar. Or a Facebook account to remind everyone it was his birthday. So we did. I flew to Melbourne for work and we celebrated as a family the next day. This worked a treat for him and also pretty well for me.