Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

When your birthday falls close to a major holiday often times your birthday theme seems pre-selected for life, and there is no guarantee that you’ll ever have more than family around to celebrate with you. From what I’ve heard from friends, no one knows this better than a December baby whether they were born on the first, thirty-first, or anywhere in between. I can sort of relate, though some would like to brush my comparison aside.

I was born on July 3, just five minutes shy of being a bicentennial baby. Red, white, and blue with American flags all over does not excite me, though I do love the fireworks. Sadly, most of my birthdays were spent with just my family as most people vacation at that time. I never had one of those big parties with a mountain of gifts. Either my friends were away on vacation with their families or I was on vacation with mine. I got used to the family birthday, even while secretly dreaming of those friend filled parties. I did get a few, but mostly my birthday was spent with family.

Now that I am a mother I try to make sure my kids have fun birthdays, even though most of them are family celebrations. My son is another July baby, but he’s still too young to really care.  My daughter, however, is a December baby who has already gotten to that age where she’s been to a few big birthday parties, and has realized that her birthday is nothing like them.

When I was pregnant all I heard was how her birthdays would be overshadowed by Christmas forever, and how she’d always get shafted on gifts. I really didn’t like hearing that jaded, patronizing comment because celebrating happy events isn’t about the gifts. Having my birthday overshadowed by the Fourth of July taught me a few things, and I made a promise to my little girl before she even came into this world that her birthday would never be Christmas themed unless she requested it. I have made a concerted effort every year to make her birthday distinct and special, while emphasizing the importance of celebration over gifts.

At first I tried not putting up the Christmas tree until after her birthday, but that didn’t work well for us. Now our solution is to put up the tree in the library, and decorate the living room for her birthday. We decorate the Sunday before her birthday and leave the decorations up until the following Sunday so she has a whole week of seeing the theme of her choice. We make a special breakfast and have cake. Whenever possible we have her party the weekend before, but that can be difficult to coordinate with others because many of the people we know have family gatherings all throughout the month.

So my daughter is growing up with her birthday seemingly competing with a major holiday–the major-ist, one could argue. For her red and green are everywhere, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have a celebration that is about her arrival into our family. That is what we think about birthdays, and that is how we celebrate them. Maybe it is all about family, but we still make a great big fuss with decorations and cake.