When I was pregnant with my second child last year, I had three wishes for her birth (aside from the whole “healthy baby” thing): I wanted to have a VBAC, I did not want to be in the hospital over Shabbat, and I didn’t want my two kids to have the same birthday.
Even before I knew they were both going to be the same gender, I knew this last wish was risky. After some reproductive difficulties over the previous year, my husband and I were thrilled to find out on the day before Passover that we were expecting our second child. If you’re a wine drinker like me, taking a pregnancy test the day before the first seder is just par for the course–which is why I had done the exact same thing three years earlier. In my personal life cycle, a positive pregnancy test the day before Passover means a baby on Hanukkah.
Since I went into labor with my eldest eight days early on the first night of Hanukkah, it became pretty clear that my daughter was always going to have a birthday tied to the holiday too. I knew that it meant a decade or so of scheduling birthday parties around school and communal shindigs, and a high probability that adults (maybe even me) would give her one present for both her birthday and Hanukkah.
Am I being a materialistic weasel if I hate that idea?
What I cherish about birthdays is that they make the ordinary individual special for just one day. I’ve worried from time to time that my daughter’s Hanukkah birthday could be perceived by her as somewhat less special because of the magnitude of the surrounding festivities. (There are plenty of other people with similar situations, including kids with summer birthdays who never get a birthday party at school, and people on the other end of the spectrum with Yom Kippur and 9/11 birthdays.)
Of course, it gets worse. Now, not only does the eldest have a birthday in close proximity to Hanukkah (on Hanukkah, by the Hebrew calendar), she was also going to now have a sibling with a birthday in close proximity to hers–and possibly on the same day.
Since I am not a fan of the scheduled C-section, I was really hoping to deliver baby #2 by VBAC, which meant needing to go into labor spontaneously, even if that meant waiting past my due date. The baby was due six days before her big sister’s birthday, so my chances of having the two on the same day were not minuscule.
I’m a middle child. Armchair psychologists find me incredibly predictable. I spent my entire adolescence struggling to find space (both physical and emotional) and distinguish myself from my awesome sisters who are less than two years older and younger than me. I didn’t want to, by their very birth, create a situation my kids would find stifling.
While during the pregnancy I was focused on being concerned that the eldest might feel that her little sister usurped her position, my concern for the years to come was that the little one might not have all the limelight her more able older sister got.
As it turns out, I was pretty lucky, as far as things go. I went into labor a bit early on the Sunday before Hanukkah, VBAC-ed (is that a verb?), and wound up with a healthy baby, home on Tuesday, and two kids with birthdays a whopping 10 days apart. By my standards, that’s a hat trick.
A year has passed, and I’ve gained enough distance and perspective to make the best choices for my girls. I want them to feel special on their special days. I want them to have fun and joy and attention. Since I try very hard not to spoil them (and very rarely buy them toys), I want them to experience the thrill of going to a party made for them, having people sing them “Happy Birthday,” eating cake, and getting presents.
It took us a while to realize that by sharing, the outcome would be better. My daughter has wanted a play kitchen for years–so we’re clearing out the furniture from one part of our house and getting one for them both. A smaller gift for each girl would not make the same impact.
Similarly, our house is too small to support any party but the tiniest–five kids, their parents, and our family would be too much–so we’re going to an external party room. Last January, my eldest went to a joint party for a classmate and her older sister–and loved it. When we told her she and her sister were going to have a joint birthday party, she was thrilled.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you each your own cake,” I offered.
“No, Ima. We should share a cake,” she said.
My daughters are happy and secure, and I only have to throw one party. Everybody wins.