Are You Conflicted by Your Birthday?

By Tobi Schwartz-Cassell

I’m not asking, “Are you dreading getting one year older,” because aging beats the alternative.

I’m asking, “Do you like your birth date—the day on the calendar when you were born?”

Do you enjoy your summer birthday—or do you hate the summer swelter and wish your birthday was in spring? Is your birthday in autumn but you hate the brisk weather—or do you revel in it because the leaves are changing color?

My birthday is smack in the middle of December. And while other Sagittarians I know hate sharing their special day during the holiday season, I can’t think of a better birthday month. Everyone’s in a good mood, and everywhere you look, there are decorations! We were celebrating my birthday last month, and Santa Claus came by on top of a firetruck, dancing to Chuck Berry’s “Run, Run Rudolph!” Who wouldn’t love that?

My mom’s birthday was January 2. She hated it. There wasn’t very much she hated—but she hated her birth date. She told my sister and I how sad she’d feel as a child because everyone was getting back to normal that day after the long holiday season, and they couldn’t bring themselves to celebrate one more thing. So, her birthday would get tabled for another day that never came. We and our dad always made it our business to celebrate her on what in the past had made her feel so overlooked, and she always appreciated that.  

When I was pregnant with my daughter who was due on January 7, 1997, my mom told me more than once that as much as she’d love to share her birthday with her new grandchild, she hoped she didn’t arrive early because she didn’t want her to be burdened with such a terrible birthday. So, what did my daughter do? She came into the world on January 1. What could be worse than a January 2 birthday? A birthday on January 1. Or, on December 25, the day my dear friend Debbie was born. But that’s another story.

Back to the delivery room. As the nurses were cleaning her up and I was still in the bed on which I gave birth, I vowed to my husband that I would do everything in my power to be sure Jardin not only liked her birthday, but loved it.

And I kept my word. Every year since 1988—the year our son Richard was born, we’ve been hosting a New Year’s Eve party with an open house on New Year’s Day. So, at midnight, January 1, 1998—Jardin’s first birthday—we brought a cake into the den, and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to the sleeping baby upstairs.

Our annual New Year’s Day Open House turned into Jardin’s Birthday Open House. More food, another birthday cake, and another round of “Happy Birthday.” When she started school, I’d bring cupcakes into her classroom on the first day back, where her classmates would sing “Happy Birthday.” But that’s not where it ended. Every summer, we’d hold a real birthday party with her friends. The regular kind, with paper invitations, a pinata, “Musical Chairs” and of course, a birthday cake, over which “Happy Birthday” was sung to Jardin for a fourth a final time. Until the next year. And she loved it! Who wouldn’t? She’d have three winter birthdays and a summer birthday every year!

But I knew that someday, she would discover the truth. That a January 1 birthday is as awful as a January 2 birthday. Was I setting her up for failure?

Sadly, yes.

Just this year, the 22-year-old Jardin said to me, in anticipation of her 23rd birthday, the words I’d been dreading since New Year’s Day 1997, “I wonder what it would be like to have a normal birthday.” My heart sank. I told her that I understood, and if I had the power to change it, I would.

I don’t know the answer to her question about a normal birthday, because who dictates “normal?”

Is normal being able to have your cupcakes in elementary school on the actual date of your birth?

Is normal receiving birthday cards in the mail on your actual birthday?

Jardin can’t have either of those. Ever.

But what she does have is a New Year’s Eve/birthday party with her friends at school, and an automatic birthday party the next day because we continue to have our New Year’s Eve party (though dramatically scaled down) and we continue to have our New Year’s Day/Jardin’s Birthday open house.

And when she walks into our home on her January 1, there will always be people who love her already assembled, delivering birthday wishes and hugs as soon as she walks through the door. And very few people have that on their actual birthdays every single year.


best girls night out

PS: So, what’s your birth date and how do you feel about it? Please comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

PPS: And no matter when your birthday is, Franks & Beans is having a party just for YOU! On February 19, we’re throwing our “It’s EVERYONE’S Birthday” Birthday Party: Leap Year Edition!

Join us at Illiano’s for a delicious 5-course BYOB dinner, birthday presents for EVERYONE, games, prizes and so much more!

Our goal is to make everyone who comes feel as special as she should on her real birthday.

And, if you were born on February 29, your ticket is only $29! If you were born on the 29th of any month, you only pay $49! And if you’re a first-timer to one of our events, you get 10% off the regular price. For everyone else, it’s still on early bird pricing. Our first two Birthday Parties were sellouts, so get your tickets now! Questions? Click here to email me!

And no matter when your birthday is, “Happy Birthday!”