For My Birthday, Let’s Stop Letting Our Kids Blow Out The Candles For Us

happy birthday momGuess what friends? It’s my birthday today. Yay me! 27 years ago on this day, my mother got to deal with all of the crazy labor and delivery drama that I write about for a living. Unlike me and my daughter’s birth, my mom did so without an epidural. Thank you Mom!

On this special occasion, I’d like to bring up a subject that has bothered me for some time. I’m hoping that I don’t sound too selfish or cranky, but I’m sure you guys will let me know if I do. I don’t understand why we, as parents, constantly let our children blow out our candles or rip open our presents on our birthdays. I don’t understand why we give up our one special day and let our children take over. I think it’s time we put a stop to it.

Every birthday party I attend, it seems like the children in attendance are completely incapable of sitting back and letting someone else enjoy the limelight. On my dad’s birthday, he pulls his grandchildren onto his lap and let’s them blow out the candles with him. It’s expected. The kids wouldn’t know what to do if they weren’t allowed to get in there and “help.” The truth is, that’s my dad’s day. It’s his time.

A friend of mine never buys presents for her own kids on her birthday. She doesn’t want them to get upset that mommy is getting gifts and they aren’t. So for her birthday, she buys and wraps a present for the kids. She says, “It’s just really hard for a little kid to understand why one person gets a present and they don’t.”

And I know what she means. It is hard. Taking your child to someone else’s birthday celebration is always hard. Who doesn’t want a chance to open some presents? But I think that kids learn a lot as they sit back, watching someone else get excited about a new thing-a-ma-bob. They learn that not every day is their day, and that’s okay.

We teach our kids to share everything. We make them think that everyone should get a chance, all the time. That’s harder to do when you’re talking about sharing pieces of a whole big year. It’s more difficult to explain that a child has a couple months to wait before they get to have their own birthday party. But those moments also teach them a lot more about sharing that having to give up a ball for a couple minutes. Birthdays are a chance to teach your children how to be happy for someone else’s enjoyment.

It’s easy to let out kids take over our birthdays. It’s easy to pull them on our laps and let them “help” with the candles and the cards. I still don’t think we should do it. I think parents should start saying, “This is my day.” Not only will it make it easier next time you attend someone else’s birthday and your little one wants to run up and get involved, it’ll let them see that parents deserve a little time dedicated to them as well.

I don’t want to go all Ayn Rand on everyone, but I think it’s okay to be a little selfish on your birthday. Tonight, I’m blowing out the candles on my super yummy, homemade apple cake all by myself.

(Photo: Ilike/Shutterstock)

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  • The Right Honourable

    I love it! I like pushing the buttons on elevators as well. Just because I’m older doesn’t me I still don’t get joy from doing it. I work with kids and let me tell you, parents are doing a huge disservice to them by not letting them experience set backs and failures. It’s okay that someone tells you “no” or you don’t get something the moment you want it. We’re breeding a generation of children who when they finally experience a set back, they can’t handle it. I learned early that you get presents on your birthday, not someone else’s and if I couldn’t handle it, my parents would take me home. It’s called life.

    • Persistent Cat

      In addition, I can find the elevator button a lot faster than a kid. Sometimes I want to scream when I’m in an elevator and I have to wait for a kid to find the button, then hesitantly press it, then press it again because they didn’t push it hard enough the first time. Those five seconds were stolen from me and nothing can ever bring them back.

  • Shelly Lloyd

    I honestly don’t care about cake, candles and presents. As long as mama gets a margarita they can blow out all the dang candles they want. As for unwrapping presents–I don’t know it just doesn’t bother me that much. There really isn’t all that much I really want. I hate jewelry clothes and makeup. But for the last 20 years my husband has been laboring over the ideal that ALL women must love this stuff so he has his mom go out and buy me expensive jewelry or other stuff like that.

    Every year it’s the same. Him: “What would you like for your b-day?” Me (being an avid birdwatcher for the last 30 yeasr): “I’ll like some new Bushnell binoculars for when I’m in the feild or a good spotting scope….” On my b-day Me: “Oh look, a lovely diamond ring to go with the other rings, that I never wear. Thanks honey.”

    • Helen Donovan

      The diamond was probably cheaper than the Busnells :) (My dad is a birdwatcher too and for one Christmas got a tripod for his camera form mom; not romantic but important& what he wanted). If you like margaritas maybe ask for top quality tequila next time? The great thing is that it runs out so you can ask for it again and again (says the woman requesting a $100 bottle of Scotch this holiday).

    • Shelly Lloyd

      Nope, it’s usually the other way around. He thinks since I’m female I should want female presents. And females should want jewelry. Usually I wait a few years and then sell the diamond and buy what I want. Maybe I should submit that as an “anonymous mom” submission, lol. Except that is is no longer anonymous now. I would have more emotional attachment to the jewelry if he went and picked it out himself, but he will have his mom or his sister do it for him. UGh. Nothing worse than getting a piece of expensive jewelry that you will never wear, picked out by the sister-in-law who doesn’t really like you.

    • Guest

      Maybe you could try dropping hints like getting him golf clubs every year/father’s day when he doesn’t even golf because “that’s what men like”

      Or maybe talk to his mother. Maybe she’s telling him that women only SAY they want something else to appear humble, really she wants diamonds.

  • LiteBrite

    First of all, happy birthday Lindsay!

    Second, I mostly agree with the article. I don’t mind letting my son help me blow out the candles (not that I eat cake on my birthday anyways), and he gets to help me with opening whatever gifts I get because it’s fun for both of us. But will I buy him a present on **my** birthday just so he doesn’t feel left out? Uh, NO. It’s not his birthday! Ditto for anyone else who has a birthday. He has to learn he is not the only one in the universe.

  • AJC

    Happy birthday Lindsay!I agree with everything you wrote!

  • Lawcat

    Sometimes I think we do things as parents because we don’t want our kids to feel sad or left out, but the kid could really care less. They’re adaptable creatures. I’ve never let my kids blow out my candles because it didn’t cross my mind or theirs. I think it helps them to learn to celebrate others, not just themselves. Making every special occasion involve them makes it incredibly hard later on for them to learn any different. My in-laws brought my niece a present during her brothers birthday just in case she had a meltdown. She’s SEVEN.

  • Arisbe

    Happy birthday!

    I understand where you’re coming from, despite your crabby
    tone. Personally, I view little things like blowing candles or opening the
    presents small life pleasures, that children like doing. To most adults, such
    small joys are no longer as relevant as they once were, so they allow their
    children to partake in them, especially small children. I’ve never had children
    nor worked with them on these occasions, so I wouldn’t really know.

    My parents were very modest with birthdays. Usually, on
    birthdays I would draw a birthday card, I wasn’t forced to, but it was still a
    nice gesture. Typically, they would take
    a day off, and we would have dinner together in a restaurant. We would hand our
    gifts. We would walk a bit, and return home, some phone calls concerning the
    birthday, some congratulations, but nothing special or quite birthday-fashioned
    such as opening presents and blowing candles. Once, my mum had to travel somewhere
    (not too far) for work. It was also her birthday. She received a purple sports’
    bag from her co-workers. When she returned in the middle of the evening, she
    was tired, and just went to rest and sleep. I was a bit guilty for not drawing
    her a birthday card, but she didn’t seem to mind at all. Dad asked her if there
    was anything she would like, but there was nothing. She just rested there, as
    if it was just another day, her birthday passing seemingly unnoticed.

  • MommyK

    Happy Birthday, Lindsay! I don’t so much mind letting my own son help open the gift or blow out the candles (although he’s too little yet, but I don’t think I’d mind), because I don’t care that much. But I completely see where you’re coming from, and definitely am opposed to people getting NON-birthday gifts…WTF?!? What I do kind of mind, is having all the nieces and nephews try to get on the birthday person’s lap and tear open their gifts. The oldest is only 4, so I get that they are still pretty little, but it’s maybe coming time for them to hold their horses and wait for a piece of cake like everyone else.

    My son is turning 1 in 4 weeks, and I’m slightly concerned about his birthday party. His cousins would lose their minds if they weren’t allowed to get in there (obstructing photo opps of the birthday boy) and tear open his presents for him. Their mom does nothing about it, doesn’t even ask them to move out of the way a little. But it’s his first birthday, and I do want him to be able to open his own gifts, because it’s to celebrate HIM. I know at his party, I won’t be able to say anything for fear of causing a fight, or more likely, making the nieces cry. Maybe I can sit in an armchair with him to open his gifts, creating some sort of personal space bubble?

    Hope you enjoy your birthday with your family!

    • Helen Donovan

      Put all the gift up high (top of book case or china cabinet). and have another adult hand them down one at a time to YOU to open for/with your son Sound like the cousins (and their mom) already lost their minds. Of course the kids cry, that’s how they blackmail you weak adults into doing things their way. Would you prefer your child cry?
      I know of no age where all in our big Irish family did not wait for cake. Either you were young & in a high chair or mom’s lap or you SAT DOWN and waited to be served. At worst you went to nap/play in another room if you could not control yourself but no cake until you sat at the table like a human being. Aunt had 10 kids, Uncle 9. All seemed to understand how mom & dad expected them to behave.

  • K.

    Purchasing gifts for the kids on the parents’ birthday? Good Lord. That’s a recipe for one entitled adult.

    It’s not just about teaching kids about disappointment or that they aren’t the only ones in the world or sharing–it’s also about teaching kids basic empathy and the realization that everyone is special and deserves love and recognition, and that their role, as a participant in giving that love and celebrating others, is just as great and important as being the one celebrated.

    There’s an easy way to deal with this too–bring your kids with you and have them help pick out the gift for the recipient (it works best if the recipient is an adult vs. another kid because their selection is less likely to be something they themselves would want). Or, even better, have them contribute something homemade. They’ll be just as excited to watch someone else open their gift as they would be to receive a dinky bargain trinket.

  • C.J.

    Happy birthday Lindsey, hope you had great day!! I agree with everything you wrote. My kids get to open their own gifts and blow out ther own candles on their birthday’s, not on anyone elses. It especially bothers me when people think their kids should get to open other children’s gifts. We had such a problem with that happening at my kids parties that one year we had to put my daughter in a chair between her grandparents while I blocked from the front so my daughter didn’t have all her gifts ripped open at one by unruly children. The year before my daughter didn’t get to even open one of her gifts, they were attacked, I didn’t even know who gave her what because they were all opened at once. After that party where we blocked the kids people got the point and we didn’t have a problem again. I did actually have one mother complain and say that her daughter should have at least been able to open the gift she brought but after that party even she kept her kid sitting at gift time. I couldn’t believe she actually said that, especially since she didn’t like it when other children opened her daugher’s gifts. Now let the giver of the gift sit next to them while they are opening the gift, the giver doesn’t get to open it, just sit with the birthday girl and have a picture taken.

  • chickadee

    Wow…I didn’t know this was a thing. We never allowed the children to open our gifts or blow out our candles, maybe because we made a distinction between the birthday person and everyone else. That made their own birthdays more special, perhaps.

    I always appreciated when people brought a small gift (modeling clay, crayons, etc) to my 2-year-old when they brought a gift for my youngest daughter, but I didn’t expect and neither did she. And birthdays are sacrosanct –no one gets gifts but the birthday person.

  • Helen Donovan

    Uh, when did WE start doing this. The gift thing is absurd and in our family you do not blow out candles on your own cake until we are reasonably sure that you won’t spit all over the cake and/or lean in too close & set your hair on fire (usually 4). That is how we knew things form day one & I know of no mental problems, permanent or temporary that were caused.

  • Guest

    “…We, as parents, constantly let our children blow out our candles or rip open our presents on our birthdays.”

    I have never in my life heard of such a thing. Who does this? If I saw someone behaving like this I would think she was mentally ill.

    Seriously, is this a joke? You gotta be trolling us. There can’t possibly be real adults who behave this way.

    • Shea

      There are definitely parents who do this. I’ve seen it. I even remember the “bring a present for Sibling 1 on Sibling 2′s birthday, because otherwise Sibling 1 will feel terribly left out and/or throw a fit” from my own childhood (not that my parents ever did that, but I remember it at other kids’ parties).

  • Jerrie

    I definitely agree! In my fiance’s family, his 5 year old niece is allowed to help blow out the candles on everyone else’s birthday. I have privately been very bothered by this, because I think she should learn to give others their “day” versus getting everything she wants because she’s the only kid. I really don’t know what to say on my birthday when she sits next to me and pulls the cake closer to her so she can blow out (or help blow out) my candles. Is there anything I can say without looking like a royal jerk? I find it really innappropriate that she’s allowed to do this.

  • Ky Harrod

    My wife and I developed a fun, new product, the Candle Puffer. It’s a party blower that allows kids to blow out their candles without spitting on the cake. Check it out: