‘The scene from this picture breaks my heart. But our son called it the best day ever.’: Mom shares powerful reminder about perspective after son’s ‘disappointing’ birthday

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“I’ll never forget this birthday party.

My husband had just been released from the ICU after an intense surgery. He couldn’t walk or breathe without significant support. We begged the nurses to take him outside on the patio. We only stayed for a few minutes, because of their hectic schedules. It was barely long enough to sing, ‘Happy Birthday,’ and cheer as our newly minted three-year-old blew out his candles.

The scene from this picture breaks my heart in pieces.

Oh, how I wanted to give our son the best possible childhood! I would have loved to plan a big party for all his friends and neighbors. We could have had games, decorations, food, and party favors. He could have picked a superhero theme or a dinosaur theme or the characters from that TV show he loved so much.

But instead, we got this.

I felt so disappointed. His only friend was the nurse he met earlier that morning. There were no other children in sight. There were oxygen tanks instead of balloons and heart monitors instead of bounce houses. We were 1200 miles from home, and after those few minutes, we went back to being trapped in the confines of the hospital.

But do you know what our son thought of that birthday?

He called it, ‘the best day ever.’ For months, he talked about how much he loved his birthday. He raved about how his grandparents came to visit in the hospital and brought him presents of coloring books and toys. He talked about how fun it was being together and having Dad come outside to sing and watch him blow out the candles. He felt super cool when nurses and doctors came by, wished him a happy birthday, and asked how old he was. And he got to eat as much cake as he wanted.

He didn’t care that it wasn’t elaborate.

He didn’t see that our lives were falling apart.

He only cared that we were together.

He only saw that we loved him.

I think of that sweet three-year-old perspective often. Too often, things don’t go how we would like. Too often, our lives are strides away from ideal.

But when we notice the things we do have, we end up with a lot of ‘best days ever’ that we otherwise might have missed.”

Toddler blows out birthday candles outside hospital where dad is receiving cancer treatment.
Courtesy of Julieann Selden

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julieann Selden. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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