I asked my daughter to share her birthday this year. Her cake will be served alongside other desserts. The menu will include dishes she doesn’t like, and she won’t be the only one opening presents. We will celebrate her 16th birthday, alongside Mother’s Day, by celebrating her grandmothers, her aunts and, of course, me.
I wouldn’t ask him to share his birthday under normal circumstances. Especially not after previous birthday parties were canceled by COVID, and even more so after last year’s party was canceled because we lost our beloved, elderly beagle that morning. My daughter definitely deserves a party all her own. But with her brother’s graduation, various family members’ vacations, and other outside social engagements, doubling the evening has become the best option, simplifying what is a busy time for us and others.
I usually share my own special day, as my brother was born on my third birthday. I don’t remember ever having a birthday of my own. Our parents threw separate parties for our friends, but the idea of having separate birthday parties with our families would have been ridiculous. We had two cakes, two stacks of gifts and a family party. He was the prince, I was the princess, and neither of us really ruled the day. And I don’t think any of us care. It was just like that.
These days, the adults in my family have taken the holiday combination to a new level, celebrating birthdays every quarter, often added as another reason to get together. We gather for cake and gifts months late for some, months early for others. We sing a series of names in no particular order as we sing Happy Birthday on a cake, randomly stitched with vintage candle holders, a recycled cupcake topper and pre-burnt candles, decorated by the kids, looking like a birthday heist.
We pass on gifts, sometimes even delivering the wrong gift to the wrong person. Birthday winners help with planning and cooking, sometimes hosting their own group celebration, crediting their efforts to creating a celebration for others.
This year, I’ll be asking my ever-helpful daughter if she’d like to help cook for Mother’s Day. Others will provide dishes dedicated to his preferences. I suspect she will help clean up and help pick and wrap gifts for all the mothers.
The lesson here is not one of sacrifice. My laid-back girl will go with the flow, and we’ll make her feel celebrated in big and small ways. I hope she learns a lesson that sometimes we ask for simplification for the sake of self-preservation.
One day she will have to face a litany of obligations, and I hope she will remember once she was asked to share her birthday, and I was grateful and relieved by her willingness. She’ll know it didn’t diminish her, but it made her even more of a gift to me, worth celebrating.
Emily Parnell lives in Overland Park and can be reached at [email protected]