Children love celebrations and the build up to these important events, but for some, their birthdays are simply overshadowed by other universal celebrations. My goddaughter’s birthday falls just after Christmas. She gets showered with Christmas presents followed by birthday gifts all in a matter of a few weeks. And then she waits for almost 12 months for it to happen again!
I picked up a book that calls these sorts of celebrations ‘unbirthdays’. As children get older it is easier for them to understand this and to cope with it. But up until the age of 6/7 you may need to find a way to put the spotlight on your child at a different time, to create a day when the person with an overshadowed birthday can have a truly personal celebration at a time other than on his or her actual birthday.
In Caitlin’s case we decided to create a mini birthday celebration in the middle of the year – an ‘in-betweener’– so to speak, to make her feel really special. The event was small, only involving her parents, grandparents and Godparents.There was a cake with candles, some fun and games and we wrapped small gifts and hid them around the garden for her to find.
The gifts were not the focus, the time spent acknowledging and honouring her, was.For a few years this became a ritual until she was old enough for it not to matter anymore. From about grade two she would have her birthday party in December just before school broke up so that she could celebrate with her existing friends from the year just past, instead of having a party at the beginning of the year when she was in a new class and having to make new friends.
Whichever way you choose to celebrate birthdays or ‘unbirthdays’, may you do so with a sense of great joy and togetherness. Honour the contribution your child makes to your family just by being him or herself.
I just love the following quote by Henry J M Nowen:
“Celebrating a birthday is exalting life and being glad for it. On a birthday we do not say, ‘Thanks for what you did or said, or accomplished.’ No, we say ‘Thank you for being born and for being among us.”