Every year we are faced with another birthday. The response to this annual event is varied and curious.

Children view birthdays as opportunities. Each birthday is another chance to amass piles of gifts, including toys, games and gift cards. Funny thing about modern kids, they love gift cards because it gives them the chance to choose the gifts they want. Of course, being children, they will never turn down a gift, which does not mean they will not exchange it or bury it in the back of their closets.

birthday boyWhen you attend a child’s birthday party, you may think you have entered a time warp, and it is, in fact, Christmas. Why are we confusing kids by forcing them to deal with piles of gifts on a birthday? Such overzealous gifting does two things.

First, the child expects the Christmas pile to be even larger when Christmas rolls around. Second, how can the child learn to appreciate what he or she receives when overwhelmed by the sheer number of gifts?

The fault lies with the adults in the child’s life. The over-the-top parties are for the benefit of other parents and not the birthday celebrant. Everything is a competition for the adults in question. If our little 3-year-old’s party includes the Ringling Brothers Circus, the other parents will have to top it.

When you look at baby or toddler birthday parties, most of the attendees are adults. If other urchins are present, the interaction between the other children and birthday kid is limited. Such early years of birthday parties are merely prolonging the baby showers. Amassing more stuff is the name of the game.

The first-year birthday party of two cousins, male and female, comes to mind. When it was time to serve the children their cakes, a large tarp covered the floor, and the children were stripped down to the baby version of skivvies, also known as diapers. Each child had a small cake of his and her own.

Then the birthday urchins were let loose on the tarp.

The male child tottered around and plopped down on top of one cake. The female child appeared to execute pushups over the other cake until her arms gave out and she performed an ungainly belly flop on top of her cake. Before they were through, each child rubbed fistfuls of cake on their faces and in the general vicinity of their mouths.

The adults laughed so hard the children stopped molesting their cakes and stared in bewilderment at the tall people around them. One adult caught the event on video, which happened to include the first steps taken by the female child.

During the teenage years, clueless youths and youth-ettes yearn to be older. The magic number for them is 21. Since Fate has a twisted sense of humor, reaching the age of official adulthood is not as expected. The old song “Is That All There Is?” fits the buildup and letdown of a 21st birthday. Unless one has over-the-top parents who set off fireworks for the occasion, that birthday is just another day.

Some people approach certain birthdays with trepidation. The 30th marks the end of extended childhood for latently juvenile folks. For others, 50 or 60 are difficult milestones because they assume the rest of their lives are downhill. But in each case, whatever we assume is rarely based on fact but rather a concept conjured in the mind of the birthday person.

Since most of us are hatched (after all we do begin as an egg) rather than springing forth from the forehead of Zeus, the purpose of each year we log is growth. Poor Minerva was a fully grown adult with not much room for growth emotionally or mentally. Perhaps that is why the gods of old tend to act like willful toddlers rather than adults.

The number means we continue to pile up the years until someone figures out the secret of immortality. In the meantime, celebrate your Hatching Day and accept gifts with grace.

Humor columnist and author, Elizabeth Cowan’s books are available on amazon.com. Visit her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/liz.cowan.author  & website: www.elizabethcowan.com.

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