Mama Madison: December birthdays

How does a family cope with them?

I used to think the supposed tensions over Hanukkah and Christmas were the basis for the famed "December Dilemma". But trust me, if I was able to keep my planning and preoccupation to just those two holidays, I'd be eternally grateful. Instead, my family's final month of the year also includes celebrations for my husband's birthday, our wedding anniversary---even the dog is a Sagittarius.

The December "holiday" that usually ends up causing the biggest spike on my maternal stress-o-meter though is my younger son's birthday. Just this past week he turned thirteen. And as happens every year, I spent the day worrying his birthday would end up getting buried amid the month's constant barrage of festivities.

My husband says growing up with a birthday smack dab in the middle of the holiday season really wasn't that big of a deal. His mom always made his favorite chocolate sheet cake, he blew out the appropriate number of candles and opened a few gifts. Quiet, but enough for him. My husband always was--and still remains--pretty relaxed about honoring the day he was born.

But I was born in late May--holiday-free with the exception of Memorial Day which never really posed much competition. I can still remember rolling skating birthday blowouts, Josie and the Pussy Cats themed-sleepovers and one elaborate Ringling Brother's-inspired mega-event featuring an elaborate circus train cake my mother fashioned out of a couple dozen cupcakes.

My beloved Chrissy doll with the hair that could be made longer and shorter and the awesome banana seat bike with streamers pouring out of the chopper style handle bars didn't have to wait for an end-of-year arrival. They, as well as many other prized possessions, were excitedly unwrapped on the holiday I could call my own.

I've always wanted to recreate some of that same self-involved birthday magic for my December-born son, but it's just so hard to rally this time of year. We've already had to put his birthday sleepover off for a few weeks--we are plagued by no free weekends (never mind the fact that his Bar Mitzvah won't be even be celebrated until 2013 when it can enjoy a little special occasion breathing space). And how's a kid supposed to get stoked about choosing a birthday cake when the house is filled to the brim with holiday treats?

Much as I try not to, it's also entirely possible I may skimp a little on his present buying because I know there are just so many more gifts, from so many relatives, coming down the holiday road. At least the ones we do give are never wrapped in seasonal paper, though. I can get a few parent points for that, right?

Last week his birthday was sandwiched between an end-of-the-year band concert and planning for my extended family's Hanukkah shindig. But my husband and I did try to make the day special with the fixings for French sodas, my son's favorite, and a carry out dinner (who has the energy to cook?) from the restaurant of his choice.

He chose, of all places, Wingstop on Regent. And there was something that seemed weirdly appropriate about launching my second son into his teenage years with a huge plate of chicken wings.

And when I looked over at his smiling face, covered with a questionably appetizing mix of atomic and barbecue sauce, I realized that a December birthday, while certainly a little hectic, perhaps doesn't need to be seen as such a dilemma, after all.

Do you have any December babies? What things have you done to make sure his/her day feels special in its own right, vs. merely an extension of the holiday season?

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