My Kid's Holiday Birthday Might Just Be the Death of Me

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A few weeks ago when my almost-2-year-old son's nursery school teacher suggested combining the class Christmas party with his birthday party ... well, let's just say I was a touch over-sensitive. As the Parent of a Child With a Holiday Birthday (you can recognize our kind this time of year by the stressed-out, how-the-F-am-I-going-to-pull-this-off look in our eyes), I'm hell-bent on making Christmas and my kid's birthday two separate and distinct events. And to make things more fun, as a certified Perfectionist I'm hell-bent on making both as special and unique as possible.


My son was born December 19, 2014. His first pediatrician appointment was Christmas Eve, and his first Christmas Day was a blur of sleeplessness and breastfeeding malfunctions. And the birthday-holiday-life balance has only gone downhill since.

Birthday Party No. 1 was seven days before Christmas during a stretch when I couldn't take off from work to get ready. As if the timing wasn't bad enough, I had to complicate things by my Perfectionist's need to create an unforgettable party event. So for my son's big 0-1, I insisted on a huge, snowflake-themed party for which I handmade a wonderland's worth of decorations -- complete with spray-painted trees, hand-stitched banners, and a population of winter woodland creatures -- and pulled an all-nighter to make sure everything was in place to achieve the perfect effect. Lord help me. I was a zombie for the actual party, I crashed into bed that night, and I got up the next morning to start cramming on Christmas prep.

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In the end, my son and entire family had a radiant Christmas morning: adorable homemade decorations, cozy baked treats, and a perfect gift left by Santa, all made more magical by the soundtrack of holiday music on vinyl that I'd planned out in the wee hours of that morning. But in the background, I was flatlining. While taking a minute to myself in the bedroom to guzzle coffee with one hand and clutch my cat for emotional support with the other, I wished I had found a way to create the perfect holiday for my son without sacrificing my own enjoyment of Christmas.

Somehow I'd relegated myself to the status of an overworked hired hand, furiously peddling behind the scenes to churn out one glittery moment after the other for my family, as opposed to being an actual family member entitled to enjoying some of that glitter myself.

When January came and I was able to look back on things from the sobriety of the New Year, I resolved not to repeat all that insanity for the 2016 holiday-birthday season. So I made a batch of promises to myself: a) I'll never again pull an all-nighter for a party, b) I'll never again wait so long to order Christmas presents that the expedited shipping costs more than the gifts themselves, and c) I'll remember that spending magic time with my son is more important than how perfectly a birthday banner is sewn together.

The key to keeping these promises, I decided, was organization. In the future I would plan way ahead, buy gifts throughout the year, and ease into December with calm and poise.

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Now Birthday No. 2 is mere days away ... and things are not going well. At the moment I have not one but two whiteboards hanging in my kitchen filled with color-coated lists and flanked by additional paper lists taped to the wall, all of which map every birthday and holiday task that needs to be done between now and 7:00 Christmas morning when my son wakes up.

I wish I could say all this effort stems purely from my love for my son. It does, mostly. But if I'm going to be honest, it also stems from guilt. I feel terrible for having saddled my child with a birthday that threatens to get sidelined by one of the biggest events of the year (I guess moms can manage to feel guilty over just about anything!).

He's still too young to understand, but soon he'll start to sense the difference between, say, his cousin’s special day in August, when she gets all the attention to herself, and his own special day in December, when he has to share the attention with another baby boy's birthday that was marked by the attendance of three kings, a celestial phenomenon, and a friggin' chorus of angels. So I tell myself a "Good Mom" means running myself ragged making sure his birthday and Christmas are two perfect events, and that neither gets shortchanged because of its proximity to the other. And don't get me started on family members who try to get away with the Christmas-birthday combo gift.

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Of course I know there are actual, real problems in the world, and having a birthday in December isn't one of them. And I realize there are plenty of other moms out there in the same boat (I wonder if they're coping better than I am?).

But at this point I'm thinking I need to make a fresh batch of promises to myself: a) I'll ditch the guilt because it's not helping anything, b) I'll remember there's no better gift at this age than simply spending time with my son, c) I'll promote myself from event-planning staff member to full-time family member, and d) I'll do what smart moms do and buy all future party decorations at the dollar store -- best idea ever!

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