As children grow older, the birthday rituals fade

March 25, 2010|By Susan Reimer

I'm not sure when it happened, exactly, but at some point my children's birthday celebrations shifted from parties with pizza and cake to something more closely resembling a destination wedding, complete with a gift registry.

We went from My Little Pony parties and GI Joe parties to plane tickets to the beach or Vegas.

And now that my children are in their 20s, their birthdays seem to go on for weeks, if not the entire month. They're kind of like festivals. And if they aren't celebrating their own, they are celebrating the birthday of someone else in their pack, including any number of dinners out and an equal number of little gift bags.

But these celebrations never include me.

My children are nice enough about it, but celebrating your birthday with your parents rates about the same on the eye-roll meter as celebrating your birthday with a Mass. They don't seem to realize that without the two of us, there would be no birthdays to celebrate.

Presents are still an acceptable birthday token from parents, of course. But I am likely to get a coy little shopping list so that I don't go off and purchase something completely stupid, like a sterling silver cuff bracelet or a Michael Kors bag. I will often be provided with the store and the location inside the store, if not the GPS coordinates.

I now use the occasion of my children's birthdays as an opportunity to shop for children I might like to have had - children with whom I have such a close and loving relationship that I instinctively know what will please them. I just make sure I get a gift receipt.

I once purchased a forest green polo shirt for my son's birthday. I thought it was perfectly suited to his conservative fashion sense and carried no hidden messages from me.

"Mom," he said. "You do know you bought me the same shirt for my last birthday, right?"

My husband has no birthday angst and commits no birthday faux pas. A card with cash in it will do that for you.

Even my cards get me in trouble. Not one to bother with the store-bought variety, which never get my heartfelt sentiment exactly right, I write my own cards to my children and I fill them with words of real feeling.

"Drama queen," read the text message my son sent me when his arrived.

I want the memories. I want the sweet moments. I want the rituals of a birthday with my children. It is one day a year. Is it so much to ask?

Growing up, I had a friend whose wealthy parents took her to "the club" for every birthday.

OK, that was weird for a 2-year-old. But when she was 25, the birthday dinner at "the club," was so set in stone that nobody was getting out if it. Somehow, a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party doesn't have that same staying power.

My children's birthdays are over for another year. Jessie was able to return my gifts, and my check to Joe was cashed.

Next up is my birthday. On my list of demands? A family dinner out. And a sterling silver bracelet.

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