This past weekend, we went to my great-niece’s first birthday party. I know they are a big deal to most parents, but I am not your typical mom when it comes to birthdays. 

I believe the reason stems from two issues. One, I have too many kids. If you ask my boys, they would make concerted efforts to let you know how deprived they were by not having big birthday bashes. For my argument I will simply say this: I had five boys in five and a half years. I was simply working hard to keep them fed, safe and loved. The second factor is my own birthday falls on a national holiday filled with candy and costumes: Halloween. No kid stands a chance for birthday party attendance next to a neighborhood candy extravaganza.

Between those two, I let the pendulum swing far to the simple. On his birthday, each boy can pick his breakfast, lunch, dinner and cake menus. We (mostly) get him a birthday gift and throwing caution to the wind, I might even pick up a birthday card. Grandpa joins us to round out the special day and that’s pretty much that.

Except when you’re boy No. 4 and you have an early summer birthday. Mix those two factors together and you get a continuing saga for the ages (and he only just turned 16!) 

His birthday has had issues from the beginning and I’ve done each and every one of the following (beware, it’s Mother of the Year material!): 

  • Forgot his birthday completely until my sister walked in the house and I said “Hey, this is a surprise! What brings you over,” and she looks at me like I’m mad and said, “It’s your son’s birthday!” 
  • Celebrated his birthday on the wrong day. As in cake, presents, the whole shebang.  
  • Arrived for a steamboat trip on the Mississippi (his dream present) only to be flooded out. 
  • Finally, on his sweet 16, we were at the ballpark and through missed connections, I was unable bring the planned crowd surprise to fruition.

I know these are relatively minor things, yet it bothers me as a mom. I see where I falter, try to rectify it, and seemingly make it worse with each concerted effort. I’m already lackluster when it comes to buying presents and cards for special occasions. A few weeks ago I mentioned how much I love flowers; this is true. I also love gifts for no reason — that and handwritten notes or letters I am aces at. Regular holidays you’re supposed to remember for kids? That I’m terrible at.

When I really think of it, though, do I want to be? And the answer seems to be no, I don’t. I am not a mom of conformity and I certainly am not a mom who feels compelled to celebrate extravagantly or spend money I really don’t have on trivial things. Yes, I put a youngster’s birthday party in the category of trivial. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys throwing a party for their child, and I love to attend them as well. For me, though, I concentrate my efforts in keeping the boys safe, warm, fed, and cared for, with a splash of celebration once a year. I think I’ll strive for the correct day, though. That’s always helpful.

Kristina Beers lives in the Remus area with her husband and five sons. She shares her thoughts on parenting teenagers and young adults on the first and third Saturdays of each month.