The stretch of summer from Father's Day to July 20 is a nonstop holiday bonanza in the Oliphint house. Some families like to sprinkle their celebrations throughout the year. Not us. Kate and I manage to pack Father's Day, Liam's birthday, my birthday, America's birthday, our wedding anniversary and Maggie's birthday into the span of a month. Needless to say, by the time our anniversary rolls around, the best gift to each other is no fuss, no presents and no expectations.
Like most kids, our children tend to start talking about their birthdays before the Christmas tree goes curbside. After all, receiving presents is a great reminder that another holiday involving presents is fast approaching, and on this holiday, siblings aren't able to steal the gift-opening thunder. In fact, a sibling is forced to watch as the other opens gift after gift after gift.
Their love of birthdays is natural, and I do love making that day special for them. (Maggie and Liam, if you're reading this, we love you and are, of course, excited about your birthdays. Even if it means Liam is now halfway to 18, which means Daddy is halfway to 70.)
My crankiness stems from the incessant chatter for months leading up to the birthdays and then cramming three out of four family birthdays, plus other holidays, into a few weeks.
There are other issues, too. For one, my kids don't need anything. I get the same guilt complex about excess at Christmas, too, when Kate and I plan what unnecessary toys to add to our kids' toy-filled rooms.
It's a cultural expectation for kids to have birthday parties, but we've yet to do the big, traditional party-a rented room at a large facility that usually involves shoe cubbies, pizza (no complaints there), awkward conversation and party favors for every attendee. Instead, we usually let our kids bring a couple of friends along on an outing or two that would be more difficult with tons of kids. Last year, Liam and two friends went to Magic Mountain and a movie. Maggie invited two friends to join our family for an evening at Zoombezi Bay.
I've noticed other parents trying to push back against birthday expectations, too. We have friends who let their kids have large birthday parties at ages 5 and 10. More and more I also see "No gifts, please" on invitations. Partygoers often bring gifts anyway (because we're Americans; #freedom), but I appreciate the gesture.
Recently we gave up on picking the perfect personalized gift for every friend's birthday party and instead bought a multipack of low-dollar Target gift cards to have on hand. Sometimes I feel like the card should come with a disclaimer: "The monetary value of this impersonal Target gift card is not a reflection of how much we value [insert child's name] and his/her friendship to [insert son/daughter]. Happy birthday!"
Complaining about excessive celebration is pretty much the definition of a first-world problem, isn't it? I guess I'm just as spoiled as the kids.
Joel Oliphint is the associate editor of Columbus Alive and likes to pretend the July fireworks are all for him.