All Children Deserve to Celebrate Birthdays!
On the day my first child was born we sang “Happy Birthday.” I was overwhelmed by the balloons and flowers that flooded the hospital room. Samantha deserved it. As her mother, I had big plans for her and was so proud of my first baby. She deserved to be lavished on. I never gave a second thought to the fact that some children will never have a birthday celebration.
Sam’s first birthday was greatly celebrated. And the following birthdays included games, gifts, crowns, balloons.
My son Andrew was born and we threw theme parties. These included super hero themes, sports themes, video game themes. There was never the question of whether or not there would be some sort of celebration when their birth date came around. Even now, when we tend to have smaller parties there is always a card, a cake, greetings, phone calls from family celebrating the blessing of these kids in our lives.
We have since adopted 5 children (3 from Ethiopia, 1 from Ukraine and 1 from Guatemala). One sad fact that I have learned as an adoptive mom is that there are millions of children who go ‘uncelebrated’ on their birthdays. Many don’t even know the date of their birth.
Shortly after Matea was born in Guatemala on 3/17/2005, she was relinquished to an attorney and foster mom in anticipation of her adoption to a family one day. That family was us. Her mother was 14 and living in very destitute surroundings. We have been blessed by her. We adopted her at 8 months and she had a huge 1st birthday. It was an honor to untie the bows on the gifts and watch her wiggle and squeal in delight over the wrapping paper.
When we adopted her siblings from Ethiopia (Grace age 9, Ella 6, Jared 5) they had never celebrated a birthday. There were no balloons or traditional birthday songs or a piece of cake to celebrate their lives. Their birthdates had to be guessed and placed on a birth certificate based on estimates (one was born during rainy season, another in the heat of summer…).
When we adopted Alec from Ukraine at the age of 5 1/2. He was abandoned two days after his birth. We know his date but there were no parties. He was labeled ‘invalid’ at birth. He remained in a hospital for two months (that’s what they did with abandoned babies). He moved to the orphanage at 2 months old and lived there until we came for him at 5 1/2 years. We brought treats and a gift. His 6th birthday was significant as we watched his face glow with joy as he looked at his cake in the comfort of his forever home with his new family singing loudly.
Most children in this world don’t get celebrated. They all deserve to.
Today, I took Matea with 2 friends to Disney Springs to celebrate her 11th birthday. She also had a family party at home and cards and gifts. A few birthdays ago, I had a $10 budget for her birthday party. We were struggling financially. We recycled toys as giveaways and the cake was from a box that cost about $3 to make. It was an excellent party. Today, I denied her almost nothing. We had a lunch with two friends at the Rain Forest Cafe, Starbucks and lots of laughs and laughed as she opened the gifts from her new friends. She deserves it all.
On the same day as Matea’s party, I received a note from a 19yo girl in Germany who reached out to me because she has no family. This was a reminder that there are still children with no balloons or crowns for them in celebration of their lives or birth. Nobody is running to the market to buy something sweet for them.
Please remember this when celebrating birthdays for your kids. When you make a cake, buy a card, sing a song, embarrass your kids at a restaurant (with waiters singing and a single candle in a sundae), you are showing them that they are significant in your lives and valuable. Please don’t take for granted the simple birthday traditions that say so much. Take time to reach out to people on their birthday to remind them that their lives mean something. And if you want to take it one step further, find someone who has nobody to sing to them and make it their birthday today.