Sunday, June 5, 2011

Happy Pretend Birthday

My birthday is in July, and when I was a child, I felt bad that I could not celebrate my birthday in school.  All of the other kids, it seemed, had their day with cupcakes and cheer in the classroom.  I felt left out.  My mom, brilliantly, began sending cupcakes on my "half" birthday in January.  She still remembers to wish me a happy half birthday.

I assumed I would carry on the tradition of half birthday with my own children, who were born in August. Secretly, I love that my kids have summer birthdays.  It saves me from the "invite the whole class" rule for their parties, which for twin moms whose children are in separate classes, makes for a terrifying gaggle of young children.  I remember very clearly the dread that spread through me as my good friend, a veteran twin mom with children about four years ahead of mine, explained her search for a location that would host over 50 children.  (She now holds two separate parties for her son and daughter.) So for a twin mom, the summer birthday is a blessing, but for my kids, who now understand what it means to celebrate their classmates' birthdays at school, the August birthday means they miss out on an element of childhood. 

I had planned to celebrate their half birthdays in February, honoring their special day with their school friends in the same way my mom had honored mine.  However, the preschool had already taken summer birthdays into account, assigning each child with a birthday in June, July and August a day toward the end of the school year to celebrate.  Since my children are in two separate classes, they were assigned to two different days.  My daughter's "birthday" was held last Thursday.  My son's will be held this coming week.

I appreciated that the days were split as it allowed me to attend both classes, a visit with each child that I know other moms have enjoyed throughout the year.  I didn't anticipate my son's angst over the separation of his birthday from his twin sister's.  In the car ride to school, he cried that his birthday was supposed to be the same day as hers.  "But my birthday is the same as M's," he persisted even as I explained that it was a pretend birthday and that he would have his pretend birthday next week.

Eventually, he came around, and he began making a pretend cake for his sister.  As I drove, I heard him in the backseat adding eggs, flour, and sugar to his pretend bowl, mixing it, and popping it in the oven.  When he took it out to give to her, he sang, "Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday to M....  (M pushes his hand away from her, as siblings in the backseat of a car are apt to do.)  NO M I AM SUPPOSED TO SING HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU AND GIVE YOU THIS CAKE." Well, at least he came around to celebrating separate pretend birthdays, I thought.

My daughter milked the pretend birthday, telling her ballet teacher that it was her birthday, which prompted a chorus of "happy birthday" from her classmates at ballet that afternoon.  That night she described to me the "princess party" she wants to have in August, for her "real" birthday.  My son wants a car race for his birthday party, and I'm trying to figure out how to build a racetrack around a princess castle in my backyard.  I suppose it's a good thing that their pretend birthdays at school fall two months from their real birthday; otherwise I would have to explain to twin 3-year-olds that they had to wait six months past their half-birthdays to have their parties.  That's a conversation where I would not win.

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