10 Things That Happen On Birthdays In Overexcitable Families


What are birthdays like in your house? Are they peaceful, happy occasions, when children play nicely all day long while their smiling parents celebrate another successful year in their child-rearing career? Or are they more like this …

(1) The pressure starts to rise months in advance as the birthday child begins tortuous deliberations over what present to choose. A week before the big day he’s narrowed it down to two options. You misguidedly try to help by offering to get both, whereupon your son bursts into tears, wailing, “But that would be so selfish!”

(2) By the eve of his birthday the pressure has mounted to meltdown levels. When you go in to kiss him goodnight, you naively ask if he’s looking forward to his birthday and are dismayed to be told, “No, it’s going to be awful! Just like last year.”

As you cast your mind back to the fun he seemed to be having at the theme park you visited on his last birthday, your son continues, “And just like Christmas. Why did we have to be at their house! Why couldn’t we have stayed at home?”

You grope for a way to stem the tide of vitriol and turn the mood to pleasant birthday anticipation. “You’re looking forward to your presents, aren’t you?” But it’s too late. “No! It’s awful having to pretend I like my presents when really I hate them! Like that rubber octopus that the eyes broke off within a week!” (Referring to a stocking-filler squidgy toy he played with 24/7 until not only its octopussy eyes but most of its tentacles were worn away.)

You eventually calm your distraught son by reassuring him (fingers crossed) that in the morning when he opens his presents from his immediate family he can be completely honest in his reactions to his presents.

(3) The big day dawns and birthday boy wakes, smiling and refreshed. He glances happily at the little pile of wrapped gifts and opens the card his sister hands him. Each card then has to be opened before any presents are unwrapped, “because I’ve opened one card now. It would be unethical to ignore the rest.”

(4) You’re delighted when your son asks to go to the climbing wall as his birthday treat. All that exercise will help use up some of his psychomotor energy in preparation for the sugar rush that is birthday cake.

(5) Less auspiciously, he wants to follow up with ten-pin bowling. Despite your best efforts to end up in last place yourself, your heart sinks as birthday boy’s final ball barrels into the gully, an enormous zero flashes onto the scoreboard, and the inevitable meltdown ensues. You drive home in silence.

(6)  Your daughter, whose latest passion is watching cake-decorating videos, has decided to decorate her brother’s birthday cake with his favourite video game character. She’s planned it all out in her imagination but despite your gentle suggestions that she practise, she’s never actually made icing, drawn the design or used a piping bag before she attempts the project on the big day.

Temmie birthday cake - overexcitabilities and birthdaysYou’re thrilled at the result of her efforts, but your daughter  is tearfully crestfallen at the apparent chasm between the cake she designed in her imagination and the one she’s managed to create.

Many hugs and the birthday boy’s exclamations of delight later, big sister is consoled, and you all sing Happy Birthday.

(7) Birthday boy helps himself to an enormous slice of chocolate cake and you brace yourself for the sugar roller coaster.  All goes well as the kids run straight out to the trampoline, though when they contort arms and legs into monster limbs using one of their dad’s sweaters, you suggest they move the game onto a less bouncy surface.

(8) Disaster. Wagamamas doesn’t have a side table available for dinner. The four of you squeeze onto a bench in between a dad with his two daughters and a twenty-something couple. You smile apologetically as birthday boy expresses his feelings about having to share a table. Times like this you really want to explain that your son is not Veruca Salt, he’s just incredibly sensitive to noise, light and touch (on the best of days, let alone at the end of an overwhelming, sugar-fuelled birthday).

(9) Back home from the restaurant, your daughter finally cracks from the pressure of being nice to her brother all day. You spend fifteen minutes cuddling, wiping tears and appreciating her for being such a lovely sister.

(10) 10:30PM. Birthday boy comes to show you he’s solved the 3D wooden puzzle Grandma gave him and to describe the life cycle of a star he’s just learned about in his new space encyclopedia. He hugs you tightly and tells you he’s had the best birthday ever. You collapse into bed smiling, exhausted and relieved.

(How many days until the next birthday..?)

* * *

What are birthdays like in your house?

What are your top  tips for maximising the fun and minimising the meltdowns?

I’d love to hear from you, in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page!


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6 thoughts on “10 Things That Happen On Birthdays In Overexcitable Families

  1. Oh wow. Yes, we can certainly relate here. It feels like you were looking in our window…
    My daughter says she dreads birthdays (and Christmas). She wants no fuss, no party, no special outing, nothing, nothing, nothing.

    A few weeks ago we celebrated her 10th birthday. She doesn’t like anyone watching when she opens presents, because she’s worried that her responses and expressions might be wrong. She desperately doesn’t want to upset anyone, but she also just can not lie.

    This year she huddled hidden under a blanket to open presents and that was even after everyone had left for work/uni. On opening her main present, she burst into tears, declaring it was ‘too much’ and ‘I don’t need this’. When I said that we could share it, she visibly relaxed and snapped into comical happy dancing.

    What a rollercoaster we ride with these amazing kids.

    I’m really appreciative that you share your ride. It really, really helps to know that it’s not just us!

    1. Thank you, M, for your lovely comment. I too can relate to how your daughter feels about birthdays and Christmas. It’s funny, even after writing this post, what you’ve shared about your experiences has helped me be clearer that it’s not that I’m not scrooge-like, I just find special occasions (especially those involving gifts) challenging!

      I love your suggestion that you share your daughter’s present and her dancing reaction. 😀

  2. Your son had grown up so much, he looks like a young man now!
    My B5 began planning her next birthday on the day of her fifth birthday, and I hear a birthday request almost daily now for something or another. I just agree to it all and hope to high heaven she forgets the vast majority of them by the time her sixth birthday rolls around 🙂

    1. LOL, Claire – I can imagine! I just love the unadulterated delight younger children have around their birthdays. 🙂

  3. My husband and I were laughing with tears running down our faces at this! We SO relate. ☺

    Today is Mother’s Day in Australia and it’s taken us about 12 years to learn that it is also a day charged with expectations and prone to meltdowns.

    When one child has spent hours making a thoughtful card and present and the other one has had the best intentions and thought of ideas for a present but not actually done anything about it – or remembers on the day that he should have organised a present but has completely forgotten = recipe for meltdown.

    Or they fight about who should cook breakfast and get upset because one is doing more than the other.

    Got to love them!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping to leave your lovely comment, Susan! It really made my day. 🙂

      I love your Mother’s Day stories. They could totally happen in our house, too!

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