From the outset, I feel the need to defend myself a bit here. Depending on your interpretation, that title above is either an exaggeration or dead on.
Both of my kids have summer birthdays that are not quite comfortable enough to squeeze together into one celebration, but not far enough apart, in my opinion, to justify two separate parties and general celebratory periods. You know what I mean by the celebratory period, right? You do the cupcakes for your kids’ daycare or school, you do the party at your house, maybe one small thing for family and one thing at one of those party places for your friends with kids, etc. I’m learning that every parent of young kids handles birthdays a little bit differently, and what’s great is there seems to be no right or wrong way to do it.
Here’s what happened: Back toward the end of June, I threw a joint birthday party for both my girls. The baby’s birthday was the earlier one, and she also turned one this year, so it was her first (ack! That’s not a baby anymore!). My older kid’s birthday was not until later in the summer, and she was turning 3. After agonizing over whether baby sister Aurelia would resent us for life for not giving her a separate celebration fully dedicated to her turning one year old, we decided that it could still be special even if the day was shared with Mackenzie. Without even thinking of it, because Aurelia’s actual birthday also fell on a Friday, when she is usually in daycare, I baked cupcakes for her class and the teachers. It was cute – they made her a big card and put her picture on it. I would post a picture of it here, but it’s, um, buried in the house somewhere. Buried somewhere LOVINGLY AND WITH EVERY INTENTION TO PRESERVE IT, I swear! Anyway …
We had the party, and it was great. A long day, exhausting, and my husband agreed with me that it was a good idea to smush both birthdays together. The kids got a ton of presents, which we didn’t actually open until a few days later, with thank you notes from
my kids from me handwritten and mailed a few days weeks later. In fact, the kids’ birthdays seemed to go on and on over the course of the summer, especially Mackenzie’s, as her actual date-of-manufacture had not rolled around yet. Mackenzie talked about her birthday constantly. Her usual bedtime story morphed into a request that we talk about her birthday, complete with recalling the two cakes I made and the fun she had with a friend from school and riding around on her pink tricycle. Haha, we did good!
Or so I thought. Because, Mackenzie’s third birthday happened recently. It was on a Saturday.
The first thing I should tell you is that this particular Saturday followed a busy week of family stuff involving out-of-towners, culminating on a post-baptism party that had been scheduled to take place on that day over my inlaws’ house, for the kids’ cousin who was born earlier this year. My sister-in-law and her family live in Texas, there is complicated military stuff involved and this was the only time they could do it. Not that it bothered us, since we had already celebrated Mackenzie’s birthday and didn’t feel the need to do it all over again on that day anyway. In fact, we prepared Mackenzie by telling her that, on her ACTUAL BIRTHDAY she would celebrate by meeting her baby cousin for the first time at a party at Grandma & Grandpa’s house!
She was thrilled, because she is 3. But another, more insidious reason for her glee made its presence known … by throwing the big party for both girls, while also spending the summer talking to Mackenzie about her own birthday, doing various celebratory things, and making sure she knew her day was special too, we had inadvertently taught our older daughter that her birthday takes place pretty much all summer. While it seems relatively harmless, as her parents, we are now in agreement that our daughter must not be led to believe that her birthday happens every day all summer long, or until she forgets about it.
We must have taken that idea to heart, because then Saturday — the day — rolls around. My husband has to work that morning and leaves in a hurry. I get the kids dressed and shuffled over to my inlaws’ place. With horror, I realize that I have not given Mackenzie a hug and a kiss and wished her happy birthday. I text the husband: Did you remember Mackenzie’s birthday?!
Two things happen: First, I realize that I should have brought cupcakes in for Mackenzie’s class the day before. With a Saturday birthday, that would have been the logical thing to do. I guess we got caught up in the whole “we already celebrated her birthday” thinking, so the cupcakes didn’t occur to me, despite the fact that the kids’ birthdays are plastered all over the wall. All over the wall, for all to see. For parents to observe and shake their heads in judgment. For the teachers to scratch their heads and whisper to each other … check out this mom who doesn’t send in cupcakes for her kid’s birthday! OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE? I MISSED MY CHILD’S CUPCAKE WINDOW!!!
Second, my husband shows up after his work day is over, and sounds almost annoyed. “Of course I remembered her birthday! I told her happy birthday this morning!” Ohh … uh, good …
Other guests start to show up. People become aware that today is the baby’s cousin’s birthday. “Are you doing anything for her later today?” someone asks. “Uh, no,” I reply. It’s starting to feel awkward.
But then I look at the kids running around in the grass with their friends and family, and realize that if Mackenzie is having a great time on her birthday, that is really all that matters. She knew the deal going into it, and she has a ton of toys and fun stuff from her party, and a good life with lots of fun time with mom and dad and baby sister. As far as she knows, her birthday was every day this summer. I don’t think she even knows what that really means—although lately, she has asked me more questions about being inside my tummy and sleeping in my bed, in my tummy, before she came out of me. (Whoa – the mind of a 3-year-old is pretty amazing, when you think about it.)
The next week at school, Mackenzie announces that it was another kid’s birthday in her class, “and we had cupcakes!!!” Eeek. We also received in the mail a birthday card from the daycare. At least this was a corporate-made one, and not hand-drawn by the class, so that reduced the guilt factor. I ask my husband if I should still bake cupcakes, and maybe bring them in on Friday. “Um … no? I mean, at this point, she’s going to think her birthday never ends.”
I guess he’s right, and I really didn’t have time to make cupcakes anyway. I may have missed my cupcake window this year, and botched the day-of celebration, but there’s always next year. After all, it’s now August, so it’s time to move on to obsessing about Christmas instead.