Friday, November 21, 2014

Why I Celebrate My Kids' Half Birthdays

When we tell people we celebrate our kids’ half birthdays, they say “What the @#$& is wrong with you?”

They don’t, but they don’t have to -- I can see it in their EYES.

My kids are exactly eighteen months apart to the day.  Which means that one child's birthday is the other child's half birthday. Pretty cool, huh?  

Actually, it’s become a monster. It was supposed to be a sweet way to acknowledge both children, but has morphed into an indulgent mess of 21st century over-parenting.  A habit that breaking, like pacifiers and rubbing backs at bedtime, is like trying to stop an avalanche with a teaspoon.

Our little snowball started when my son came to the hospital to meet his baby sister. We hoped and prayed that instead of feeling betrayed, Mr. R would walk into the room, gaze lovingly upon his sibling, and feel complete.  

But when he walked into the room and saw me breastfeeding Lady A, a look of confusion and despair took over his sweet little face.  "Who the hell is this, and why is it sucking on my mom?" his wide eyes and frown asked. He immediately tried to hoist himself up on the hospital bed to sit on top of me. And his sister.  

As a peace offering, we whipped out some presents for Mr. R. 

Six months later, when Mr. R turned two, he had a party at home.  Lady A got a gift or two, not so she'd feel acknowledged – she was six months old for Pete’s sake -- but so we'd feel like we acknowledged her.  

But then it happened.  Lady A turned one, and it killed her brother that his sister was in the spotlight.  He was pissed OFF to see the house decorated for her little party.  He wanted to help her blow out the candles. The few presents he got were not enough. 

That should have been our cue to put the kibosh on this half-birthday crap, but no-o-o.  We were only children, and wanted each child to feel equally special, even if that child acted like a total brat.  Instead of the “we love you just because” kid feeling happy to get anything, it made him less respectful of, and just as entitled as, the top dog, ready to pull a Tonya Harding at the first opportunity.     

Call us criminals, but we love to go whole hog on birthdays, especially the kids’.  We live vicariously through their happiness – satisfying the needs that as an adult are so hard to fill.  It is a real kick in the ass to see envy and disappointment – suffering on the part of one kid, when we’ve worked so hard to make them both feel treasured to the endth degree. 

And we keep trying, when we should probably stop.

The thing is, life has a way of teaching us that we are not, in fact, that special. That’s why childhood is such a treasured and unique time in our lives.  Similar to Santa Claus and company, one day we will explain why we celebrated half-birthdays when the ritual is a thing of the past. 

Someday, I know my kids will celebrate their sibling’s birthday, remember a lovely tradition, and wonder what the hell they had to complain about. 

They better.

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