NUDGE: When Birthdays Come Early

Get-well presents. Hooray!

My niece, S.Hooligan, is having a small surgical procedure tomorrow morning. They’re going to clip her frenum, or frenulum; this is the band of tissue that connects to the underside of the tongue. S. isn’t truly “tongue-tied”—she talks a blue streak—but she continues to have problems pronouncing her “L” sounds, saying “yook” instead of “look,” for example. The process is simple, done on an outpatient basis at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, but the prospect could be daunting for an eight-year-old.

Not S.Hooligan. She’s been excited ever since she heard about it, primarily because her mother promised her a gift after her surgery. Of course, Grandma and I are giving her something as well. The fact that S. can eat only Popsicles right after the procedure doesn’t hurt, either.

Not that S. didn’t have any interest in the process itself. She pounced on the booklet the doctor passed along that told all about what to expect. Soon surgical terms were part of S.Hooligan’s conversation. I said something about where she would be waking up after the surgery, and she said, “You mean ‘recovery’?” Mostly, though, her focus has been on the gifts, and she’s spent the weeks since the procedure was scheduled considering her options and choosing one toy over another.

“It’s like my birthday came early!” she said happily last week. I hope she still feels that way the first day or so after the procedure. It’s been a lot easier on everyone, including her Grandma, who frets about even simple medical things like this, to see S. dancing delightedly through these days of anticipation.

NUDGE: What would make you feel as if your birthday had come early? For S.Hooligan, it’s all about the gifts, things she would have had to save up for over a long period of time. Would that birthday feeling come for you through material things? Or would it be a special dinner or evening out? Would it be a bit of good news (a piece of writing accepted for publication, for example)? Your baseball team making it to the World Series? Don’t limit yourself to a single option; examine the different things that could make you feel like celebrating (or could create the feeling of being celebrated).

If you want to be contrary, or if you really hate birthdays, do this exercise in reverse: What loathsome thing about your birthday would you hate to encounter to make it seem as if your birthday had come early? Even if you don’t hate your special date, challenge yourself by taking this tack and writing convincingly about it.


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