“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you!”
Today it is little Audrey’s sixth birthday.
“Here is a party for you, Audrey!”
“I made you your favorite cake, Audrey!”
“Look at that pile of gifts for you, Audrey!”
“You are so special, Audrey!”
Little 4 year old sister, Emma, is watching on. Watching everyone hug and celebrate Audrey. Watching Audrey eat her favorite cake. Watching her open gift after gift. Watching everyone sing and hug and celebrate Audrey. Just like on the Brady Bunch, Audrey Audrey Audrey.
Emma thinks, “I’m special too….” she hesitates, “aren’t I?” She doesn’t feel special. Or celebrated. Everyone keeps telling her this day isn’t about her. It’s about Audrey. She is told that she is selfish if she voices feeling jealous or resentful. She doesn’t want to make the day about her. She loves Audrey and is so excited to celebrate with her. She just wants to know she is still special too.
Is it so bad if her parents decide to give a little gift to Emma on Audrey’s birthday?
I don’t think so.
What are your fears with doing this? Are you afraid that Emma will grow up feeling entitled? Or selfish? Or ungrateful?
I think the opposite will happen. I think by acknowledging the sibling/s with a little special something and saying “today is such a fun day getting to celebrate your sister, we all just wanted to give you this gift so that you know you are so special and loved too.”
Little kids can’t make the connection of “you’ll get your own party/gifts/cake/attention on your own birthday.” Future dates are too abstract for them. They live in the now, in each moment and emotion. And all they here is “today you aren’t special, so stop making it about you.”
But won’t my kid expect gifts at other people’s birthday parties? Not just siblings parties?
No, I don’t think so. Going to a birthday party outside of your family is just like a big fun party playdate. It isn’t a full day spent focusing on this one child and not on the others. It’s much easier to separate that when it isn’t your own family.
But what if I have 4 or 5 children? Should I buy all of them a gift?
Again, I don’t think so. I think it is much easier to understand and cope with when there are several other kids not being focused on as much. But if you can afford getting something small for each kid, why not?
Does this mean you should get a gift for siblings at every occasion?
Again, no. Birthdays are a special celebration. An all day celebration of one specific person. It is easy to feel sad, left out, unloved when you are just a little person that doesn’t understand the concept of birthdays. Sure, they understand gifts and excitement. They just don’t understand why they aren’t being included. No, we don’t need to teach them that “today isn’t their day” because that is obvious, but a little special moment will teach them that their feelings are valid and that they are special too, even on a day that “isn’t theirs.”
It should also be noted that if your family isn’t big into gift giving, the point of all of this is to just preserve the connection with your child that isn’t feeling special. Their connection might be feeling a bit wobbly, and by including them by giving them a little bit of one on one time, or by making their favorite cupcake flavor, it can go a long way in giving them that security that might be feeling a little off. A whole day of festivities directed at one person can feel like a lifetime for a little kid.
I truly believe that by including them in this small, yet significant way, they will become more generous (learned through modeling), more selfless and feel greater contentment (and less resentment).