Making Time: A Different Birthday
“How many days until my birthday, Daddy?”

A few months ago, my wife Sarah and I realized it was our turn to experience what every other family has faced in the past year: organizing a kid’s pandemic birthday celebration. We had to figure out how to make Brandon’s 4th birthday feel special despite everything going on.

He still talks about how much fun he had last year celebrating big number 3 in an indoor gym. Getting pushed around in a golf cart with his friends and family and blowing out candles on a cake are lasting memories. But the world has changed so much since then – and not only because of Covid. Brandon became a big brother just one month after he turned 3. So now we had the pressure of making him feel as special and celebrated as he did at 3 but with the added complication of many changes in his life and new safety restrictions in place.

We went straight to the source to ask what a birthday meant to him. “Brandon, how should we celebrate you turning 4?” Sarah asked during bedtime one night. He looked at her as if she asked him to solve one of life’s greatest mysteries. “Hmm,” he said. “I need to think about that, but I can’t while I’m sleeping Mommy.”

Over the next few days, Brandon developed a list of what his birthday meant to him: blue balloons, singing at school and at home, a special toy, goodie bags to hand out at school and, for a special birthday treat, chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing. We figured we would add in a few surprises too, but if we accomplished each item he listed, we knew we could deliver.

Brandon and Mommy shopped online for stickers to give to his classmates. Luckily, we found some from one of his favorite TV shows, “Super Wings.” “Those! I want to give those to my friends! I like them so much Mommy!” At the supermarket, he picked out Matchbox cars to pair with the stickers, selecting one for each classmate while naming who would get which car. Brandon couldn’t wait to take them to school.

When it came to the cupcakes, Brandon told Sarah, “I want chocolate cupcake mix Mommy and don’t forget the chocolate icing!” They threw in sprinkles for decorating. Brandon wanted to “make sure they are yummy,” so we all sat down for the taste test. The smile and chocolate on his face and hands confirmed we had a good result.

The night before his big day, our little birthday boy was suddenly concerned. After story time, he confessed: “I don’t want to sleep too long, Daddy, because I will miss my birthday.” I replied, “Don’t worry little man – no one will let you miss anything,” and off to bed he went for his last night as a 3 year old.

When the sun came up, I woke up to him beside my bed holding his birthday shirt, ready to get a start on his special day. Mommy was already waiting downstairs. The balloons were set up. And so were birthday hats and crowns, and a big “Happy Birthday!” sign.

There was no party like last year, but the next few days were filled with school celebrations, singing and even a surprise drive-by from his school friends. There were Zoom calls from family, text messages, phone calls, birthday cakes sent by mail and more celebrating than we planned ourselves. Each time someone wished him a happy birthday, Brandon’s face lit up with a wide grin, showing how special he felt.

When my wife and I found ourselves with a few quiet minutes, we realized just how lucky we are to have such a supportive community and wonderful family around us to help make this different birthday so special for our big boy. And at our next bedtime together, Brandon told me “birthdays are the best, I can’t wait for my next one!” Me too, little man.

Read more Making Time here.

March 2021
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