Please Don't Put Candles On My Pumpkin Pie

March 25, 2007 was one of the most surprising and exciting days of my life.  The amazing news was first reported to my BFF (who had provided the necessary test) with a phone call that went - verbatim - like this:

Me: Dude, there's two lines.
Her: Holy shit, dude.

I remembered I should tell my husband and there was general happiness all around. And then... we did a little math and cringed.

It was going to be a holiday baby.

Not that I cared for my sake - after seven years of failure and infertility, you take what you can get.  But I was sorry for my child's sake.

See, my birthday falls between Christmas and New Year's.  Two of my cousins' fall a few days before Christmas.  My uncle's: Christmas Day.  I know a thing or two about how much it completely and totally stinks to be a holiday baby.

Seriously, if I never hear the words "Merry Birthday" again it will be too soon.

Other kids got actual birthday parties and actual birthday cakes and actual birthday gifts in actual birthday paper.  If - and that's a big IF- I got separate Christmas and birthday gifts, they were always. Always. AL. WAYS. wrapped in Christmas paper.

And I'm not saying I was a greedy kid who wanted more presents.  We didn't have a lot of money and I was always grateful for what I had.  But it's hard to grow up with any self esteem when the overwhelming message from every adult in your life that the most important day in your young life is, for them, an afterthought.

Classmates born at normal times had moms who brought cupcakes to school and teachers who led us in the birthday song.  Or they had fancy birthday parties at parks and swimming pools and bounce houses. I know this, because I overheard them talking about it at school.

But you know how kids are - if you don't invite them to your birthday party, you don't get invited to their birthday party. And I never had a birthday party. Never once.  Which is to say I never went to any, either.

If it sounds like I'm bitter... maybe I am. A little.  (The thing that really chapped my ass was that my brothers - May and October - both got real gifts for their birthdays.)

My precious little Bear was born the Monday of Thanksgiving week, and so far his birthday celebrations have fallen the weekend before.  Since that's when many folks have their "other side of the family" Thanksgiving, odds are he'll never have a great birthday party turnout no matter how hard we try.

And then there's the SPD.

Though the neurologist just said he has "moved away from concerns about autism," I'm not kidding myself that Bear is suddenly going to be a social butterfly.  He's still socially delayed, and until his stilted speech pattern improves I will remain concerned about peer acceptance .  I mean, sure, he got that one birthday party invitation from another child in EI, but now he's aged out and we'll lose touch with those families (most of whom live too far for play dates).  Since our connection to neurotypical families is currently limited to them judging us while he does what he does on the playground (which I'm still learning to handle as gracefully as Hartley), I'm not holding my breath for a mailbox full of invites.

I was relieved to learn I'm not the only SPD parent concerned about peer acceptance. I can only hope as time goes on I can create social opportunities for Bear to shine as brilliant and successful as fellow writer Caitlin did recently with the Halloween party she threw for her son's class.

I suppose the fact I'm already an expert on the inequities of the childhood birthday party quid pro quo holiday birthday situation gives me an advantage. It has certainly made me determined to give Bear as normal a birthday experience as possible, even when it means his cake is occupying the space in the fridge where I should be defrosting the turkey.

I know I still have some time before Bear reaches school age and these issues go from something I worry about to something that's affecting him.  And I will remain eager to learn from the parents who have battled the peer acceptance demons on behalf of their sensational children and come out on top.

Meanwhile, I can only ask the world to take a moment to really think about the holiday babies in your life.  Take the extra minute to get the birthday paper out of the closet.  Call them and actually say Happy Birthday before asking how much pumpkin pie they had or what Santa brought. You have no idea how much it will mean to them, and I'm not exaggerating when I say you may be the only one to do so.

And please, please, for the sake of countless kids - neurotypicals and challenged alike - never, EV. ER. say Merry Birthday again.



John and Allie Fields said...

My daughter's 3rd birthday was on Thanksgiving of this year. I made her a cake that looked like a turkey (ugly as all get out). Since she is still young, it was easy to pull off a Thanksgiving birthday party with family but I'm sure as she gets older it will be hard to work around the holiday and hope she has friends in town for her parties.

Gina @ Special Happens said...

LOL. I think I'll be taking that advice. My daughter's is in the beginning of December and both boys the beginning of, crossing my fingers no "Merry Birthday" leaves my lips.

Have a great weekend Hartley.

Patty Mullins said...

My middle child's birthday is exactly one week before Christmas, so there have been many combined birthday/Christmas gifts over the years, and not too many real birthday parties. This year we're not making the traditional 6-hour drive to do the annual weekend before Christmas celebration because: a.) my kids have school the following Monday and Tuesday, so it's not practical, and b.) we didn't want to take away another birthday party. So, we will stay home and celebrate my son's birthday... ON his birthday... and mail cards and gifts to my family this year.

Hartley said...

My Nick was born before Christmas, and as a policy we have ALWAYS had a separate party (one for his friends, and one for just family), separate gifts (every year) and we don't put our Christmas tree up until after his birthday.

Our house has no Christmas decorations until next week.

I also find, that this is a good way to keep anxiety down for Gabe!

Happy birthday to all the holiday babies!


In Real Life said...

My daughter's birthday is the first week of December, and my husband's is the 22nd of December, so I do know about holiday birthdays! We don't celebrate or decorate Christmas until after my daughter's birthday. Now that she's older she thinks she would like to decorate earlier and she says, "Oh yeah, right, no Christmas until after my birthday!". But I think at the same time, she is also kind of relieved by our tradition. Before we had our daughter, I thought my husband was a little over the top with his sensitivity to birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper, but as the years have passed, I understand this a lot more.

Anonymous said...

I'm a holiday baby, so December was always difficult for my parents. They did their best to make sure it was my birthday that was being celebrated and not Christmas. I could always tell though.. I think I had a handful of birthday parties (none well attended) and now I have a summer babe with SPD that doesn't do well socially (no friends at the moment) so I can't even use the - you go to school together option for creating a birthday Oh well - we celebrate him and let him know how special the day he was born is to us! We should always celebrate people in our lives this way :)

JandDsmom said...

This definitely rings true in my home. My oldest son, the one with the myriad of issues, his birthday falls on the 30th of November. I'd never given it much thought really. Until he became old enough for parties and I've tried to actually throw several of them....a very bad time of the year to do it. :(

His half brother, who's birthday falls in the week before Halloween even gets a better turn out to parties and twice as many gifts to boot!

His grandmother (on his father's side), tried the Merry birthday thing...with the pumpkin pie....NEVER a good thing when the smell of pumpkin offends the little guy as does the texture! It was actually pretty funny to watch her freak out over his reaction though! ;)

Patty O. said...

AMEN! My birthday is December 22nd, so I know of which you speak. Add to that the fact that I have a twin brother and you can understand why my birthday was never my own special day. I didn't mind sharing with my brother, but it is hard having a b-day so close to Christmas. No one ever remembers it. And if they do, there is often some bit of complaining about how stressed they are because of the holidays.

As for parties, I have the same concerns for my son, who was born in the summer. Right now, he is content to have very small family parties, but who knows how he'll feel when he gets older. Socially he is pretty behind his peers, and I of course worry about this.

Angela Fish said...

My birthday is the week after Thanksgiving, my husband's is on/near Veteran's Day, my older son's is a couple days from New Year's, my younger son's is a couple days from Memorial Day, my brother's is a couple days after Christmas, and my mom's is on/near Labor Day. The only person in my entire family who escaped the birthday on a holiday is my dad. I 100% get this, and appreciate your blog! I wish everyone a Happy Birthday, legitimately! :-)

Anonymous said...

I totally get this - as a January birthday. By the time my birthday rolled around 3 weeks after the holidays, everyone was all celebrated out. I love all the comments here about how you all try to make birthdays special no matter when they are - some great advice here!

Jennifer said...

My baby's birthday is December 29th. He's about to turn four and yes it's difficult to make sure he doesn't get the shaft!!

Lindsay & Emma Bartholomew said...

Miss Emma will be 3 the day after christmas- poor bug. I make a HUGE deal of her birthday. We do a small family party with a big birthday gift, cake etc and I have FORBID any Christmas paper on her gifts!! My bank account suffers but I don't care-I don't want her bday meshed with Christmas. We also do an Un birthday on June 26th which is the bigger party for extended family and class mates for which she gets the whole shebang- pinata and all.