Friends & Family

The Unfairness of the December Birthday

My daughter was born two weeks before Christmas.

That will be fine, we assured ourselves. Two weeks is a long time.

I am here to tell you: it is not a long time.

Growing up, I heard a lot about the awfulness of having a birthday near Christmas. I have two aunts–one on either side of the family–who were born on Christmas Eve. I have a friend from elementary school who was born on Christmas Day. Their birthdays were always overshadowed or ignored, at least from their point of view. Extra presents on Christmas wasn’t the same as having a separate birthday celebration. They wanted what everyone else seemed to have.

But two weeks–that seemed workable. For most kids, the holiday break hasn’t even begun. We don’t celebrate Hanukkah so we don’t have to contend with that. She’d be able to have her birthday and Christmas, too.

Fast forward four years and we’ve just finished her birthday party–her pink, chocolate birthday party–for which we filled our dining room with balloons, streamers and every pink stuffed animal she owns. We had a hot chocolate tea party and we danced and played Pin the Crown on the Princess. At least one balloon popped when it bounced into the Christmas tree.

It was a major success. It was everything she wanted. It was totally exhausting.

Now that it’s over, it finally feels like Christmas.

You see, that’s what I hadn’t considered: two weeks is plenty of time for her to have two separate celebrations, but a birthday party smack in the middle of the holiday season plants a giant boulder of stress in our yuletide preparations. And it can’t be a Christmas party–it has to be separate and special. It has to be celebrated with the same level of excitement as her brother’s birthday in May.

So we decorate for Christmas, and then for the birthday, and then for Christmas again.

The other day, I asked my daughter if she would rather celebrate her half-birthday in June. She really liked that idea but it’s hard to say if her preschooler’s brain understood that a half-birthday celebration would mean no party for her actual birthday. Of course, dealing with these confusions and disappointments is just a part of growing up. My son is struggling to deal with the idea that he won’t have a big-time party when his birthday rolls around–we’ll do something as a family–and the fact that it IS fair for his sister to have parties for her fourth and fifth birthdays because he had parties for his fourth and fifth birthdays.

But then, it won’t always be fair. It certainly won’t always feel fair. And what is fairness, anyway? How can we measure it?

It doesn’t feel fair that I have to squeeze a birthday in with the tinsel and twinkle lights. But hey, I have two weeks. It doesn’t feel fair that my daughter gets nearly double the presents her brother does in December, but gets no presents in the springtime. It doesn’t feel fair that she’ll never be as old as he is, not in the same moment–she can’t even fathom that fact yet.

Is that fair?


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