Kid 1 has had several friends who have had birthdays recently. We dutifully buy presents, attend, eat mediocre young-child-party food, get “treat bags” full of cheap crap made in China which breaks/disappears within moments of getting it, and go home again totally over stimulated with way too much sugar in our systems.
As a result, Kid1 has become obsessed with birthdays. “When me birf-day?… When you birf-day?… When Bay-be birf-day? When Daddy birf-day?” Then he asked when “Gan-ma’s birf-day” was. I know when my mom’s birthday is, but my MIL’s birthday remains nebulous.
You see, my MIL is a “good” Christian Scientist who doesn’t celebrate her birthday (much less share the date with anyone). She follows Ms. Eddy’s advice on p. 246:17
Never record ages. Chronological data are no part of the vast forever. Time-tables of birth and death are so many conspiracies against manhood and womanhood. Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise. Man, governed by immortal Mind, is always beautiful and grand.”
I’m totally cool with not recording my age, after about twenty-five the mental math it took to figure out my age got rather straining, so I stopped caring all that much. I remember the day, it is marked on my calendar (and my husband’s because I put it there) and we usually celebrate by going out to dinner without the kids (thrilling, let me assure you).
I’ll probably feel differently when I get older, my grandmother, who is pushing well into her nineties celebrates each year and proudly announces her age, after all, not everyone can claim great-grand children (careful, she’ll show you her photos)! For now, I’m happy with some acknowledgement, maybe a card in the mail from well-meaning friends/relatives, at some point, birthdays became just another day on the calendar.
No big deal.
Growing up, my mother did her best to keep birthdays to a minimum. When I was much younger we lumped my birthday with my father’s and held a “Spring Fling” at the local park. Sure there was cake, and a few presents if anyone remembered, but the focus was on a mass of family friends at the park having fun – not on the “birthday girl.”
When I got older I’d plan my own parties which were never much good. I wasn’t particularly popular, so they’d end up being my dad taking my friends and I out for lunch. After about half of my friends called in sick for my “sweet 16” I pretty much gave up on birthdays.
Then there was my 18th birthday. My mother decided to “surprise” me and brought home a cookie monster cake that would’ve taken center stage at Cake Wrecks. Apparently it reminded her of me. I wanted the floor to swallow me whole. She then invited a few of my friends over to help us celebrate. I was mortified.
Birthdays at college usually meant going off campus for dinner, but we didn’t call them “birthday” celebrations, we were “celebrating Kat’s special day.” It is such fun to check FB on/around my birthday and see which of my friends are still “good” CS, they’re the ones who write: “best wishes on your special day!” or “happy special day!” or “enjoy celebrating Life!”
Really people? They’re birthdays.
“Special” days are days when school is canceled because the power goes out and there is flash flooding, or when the heater stops working in the dead of winter, or there is a thick layer of ice on your car, or the baby blows out a diaper at 3am and refuses to go back to sleep. Clearly I have a different definition of “special” than they do.
When you’re younger, birthdays are an excuse to invite a bunch of friends over and have cake, and presents (mostly cake, cake is key). We’ve taken the 1-kid-per-year approach, when Kid1 turned 1 we invited all our grown-up friends – it was mostly a party for us to celebrate surviving the first year anyway. When Kid1 turned two, we invited two friends and so on. I think I’m going to cap it around six or seven. The idea of ten ten-year-olds is a bit terrifying.
When you’re older, birthdays include rights of passage: getting a drivers license, getting to vote, “graduating” from Sunday School, being of legal drinking age (woo-hoo). After that they start to blur together, and then they become an excuse to go out to dinner, have cake, or splurge on something extravagant, although once you’re a grown up it is less thrilling to get glitter-covered cards in the mail.
I guess birthdays get exciting again when you start hitting milestones that not everyone meets, like eighty-five, or ninety. One hundred and ten is pretty cool too.
I’m kind of glad I’m no longer a Christian Scientist. I enjoy throwing birthday parties for the kids, I enjoy celebrating that we’ve managed to make it another year, and we’re better off than we were the year before. Birthdays are not about celebrating the passage of time: they’re about getting together about getting together and having cupcakes at the park, because you can.