My parents are not perfect. No, there’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just that they’re human and perfect people don’t exist. As people, we get things wrong and we get things right.
I want to talk about something my parents got spectacularly, stunningly right.
About <mubmlemurf> years ago, a young couple was speeding along King’s Highway from Dahlgren into Fredericksburg in a VW Bug, with the wife begging her husband to be careful and watch the bumps. She was in labor and it was two o’clock or so on Christmas morning. The closest hospital was about 45 minutes away. Well, 25, given the way her husband drove.
At the hospital, there was some blasé behavior from the nurses. It was a first baby, after all. But at 4:35 that morning, she had her baby. The little girl was then cleaned up, given all the medical tests that were usual at the time, then put in a stocking and given to her parents.
That cemented an idea that had already been settling in my parents’ minds – that a Christmas baby was Important and Special.
It was treated that way from then on. I was named Noel. (I didn’t add the trema for another 12 years when I got sick of my name being mispronounced, and being misgendered). My birthday was treated as something wonderful and awesome rather than an afterthought.
Did I get a birthday party? Well, I kinda got two. I got one with my friends the week before Christmas with a cake (I got some pretty awesome cakes – winter scenes, dolls in ball gowns, Miss Piggy. They were great). That was all kinds of fun.
Then on Christmas Day, my birthday was celebrated with my family. Oh, we did Christmas as a holiday with Santa and presents and feasts and family and fun. It was wonderful. But I always got a couple of nice presents wrapped in birthday paper, and usually another cake with another rousing version of Happy Birthday from the family.
Heck no, I didn’t hate my birthday, nor do I now. I love it. All the emotional stuff surrounding my birthday goes on for a whole month. I’m lucky beyond belief.
But not everyone gets that.
When I was turning 13, the Free-Lance Star did a piece on Christmas birthdays (there were three in my neighborhood, and a few others in town). If I recall correctly, I was the only one who had much positive to say about it. Everyone else felt like the afterthought, or celebrated their birthday in June.
Lots of December babies, Christmas or not, get their birthdays treated as afterthoughts – another burden at an already overwhelmed time. I hate this for them. It’s utterly awful.
So, I’d like to propose some Rules for December Birthdays.
- If the birthday is not on an actual holiday, let the WHOLE CELEBRATION be about them. Don’t wrap it in with a Christmas party.
- If they are a Christmas baby in a family that celebrates Christmas, they get the whole day can’t be about them. It’s really okay. But let a part of it be Birthday and not Christmas. A cake and a song doesn’t take enormous amounts of time.
- Don’t wrap birthday presents in red or green, or use any other standard Christmas imagery surrounding their birthday.
- Avoid using Christmas stamps on birthday cards, if you can.
- Find out in advance if it bothers them that Christmas and birthday presents get combined. (This varies. If you ask and get a weary shrug, it probably does bother them and they’re just too polite to say so)
For those of you who are parents of December children, keep in mind a lot of how they feel about their birthdays rests in your hands. Don’t let them be afterthoughts.