A Birthday Party Quandary

In a perfect world, we would be celebrating Mira’s first birthday today, the 21st. But the little diva decided that she wasn’t going to comply with some arbitrary due date, and instead waited another six days to make her appearance.

And while her actual birthday is next Tuesday, we’re having her party this Saturday, because adult schedules don’t always match up with baby birthdays. This will be the first party where Cordy is not a focus or THE focus of the celebration.

We’ve been dealing with some jealousy again from Cordy. Cordy’s recent hugs look more like take downs. Mira is practicing standing and taking her first tentative steps, but any cheer to encourage her ends with Cordy doing something to get the focus on her. Like pretending to fall down and “hurt” herself. Or just tripping Mira and laughing wildly.

And while I understand that she wants attention too, that doesn’t mean I’m going to completely ignore my younger daughter. I think she expects us to be all oh, Cordy, you’re the only one we care about! This other kid? Eh, just kick her if she gets in the way. She’s a big bore to be around anyway – can’t even walk yet! Don’t worry, we’ll only cheer YOUR accomplishments!

It’s getting old.

So when planning this party, my mother suggested, “I’m going to bring a gift for Cordy. You might consider getting her some gifts, too.”

“But it’s not her birthday, mom. She’ll get lots of attention when it’s her birthday. Isn’t Mira allowed to have her own day?”

“Cordy needs to know that she’s special, too.”

I can see her position, sort of. I mean, Cordy got presents when Mira was born. Sort of a peace offering of here, this little screaming being is about to usurp your power and guarantee you’re not the center of attention 100% of the time from here on out, but here’s a cute little stuffed animal and t-shirt to make it all better, so go give your new sister a kiss. She’s had to deal with a lot of change since then, and seeing everyone spend a day lavishing attention and gifts on Mira could cause some hurt feelings, or a rebellion that I really don’t want to deal with.

But at the same time, I want Mira to have her own special time, too. I’ve heard the stories of younger siblings who felt like they never got enough attention because they always had another sibling to deal with. Cordy had nearly three years all by herself – two birthdays and three sets of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Easter to be the solo golden child. Mira will never have that. Shouldn’t her birthday be that one day where it’s all about her?

I was an only child, so I never had to deal with this issue. Well, I did, but not in the same way. My birthday and my mom’s birthday are a day apart on the calendar, so I never had a family birthday party that wasn’t a joint party. I never even had my own cake – it was always a shared cake.

So I need your help, oh friends in my little electronic box: do we give Cordy a present? Should we help ease her sibling jealousy and show her that even though the party is for Mira, she gets cake, presents, and attention too? Or do we tell her to suck it up and get over herself, because life’s not fair and occasionally you have to step into the shadow and let someone else have their moment?

What do I do? Should I find some way to recognize Cordy at Mira’s birthday party? Or do we put the focus on Mira alone?

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  1. At this age, I think *a* present might not be a bad idea. For instance, your mother’s gift. It might tone down the animosity a little bit and ease the transition for her. I think buying her multiple gifts, giving her her own cake, etc. would be going overboard, though. Like you said, she needs to eventually figure out that it’s not all about her. But given her age, maybe one indulgent gift wouldn’t hurt?

    That said, I was an only child, too, but I shared my birthday with JESUS CHRIST (ahem). So, you know, it was *never* about me. 🙂

  2. This is a great question. I am a number 2 so I’m so sensitive about making sure my DD gets as many photos, as much attention and as much scrapbooking as my first born DS. I guess for my DD’s first birthday we including my son by making him feel an important part of the day be helping. He enjoyed that plus he had more fun than his sister anyway because he could run around better than his older sister. My opinion- don’t overthink it. If someone wants to bring Cordy a present- let them. Fast-forward a couple years and no one will remember anyway! Good luck- have a great party on Saturday.

  3. When my sister had her second baby, The first was doing a lot of this type of attention getting behavior. I sent Lexi (The oldest) a “Big Sister Kit” with a card. Inside the card I wrote Congratulations on becoming a big sister! I included some of my memories about being a big sister and gave her a few “tips” I included some special gifts for her and toys that were for her to use to play with the baby. My brother in law called and said it was just what the doctor ordered. Sibling rivalry can be stressful for parents. With my own two, I praised my eldest for being such a big help to me and talked to him about what a wonderful big brother he was. It worked until they were both in their teens and the hormone fairy came to visit. Then I had to go with separate rooms. Hope you get some suggestions that help.

  4. crunchycarpets – good point, she won’t remember any of this. Thank goodness, too, because Cordy has really been roughing her up lately. 🙂

    mcmama – damn, you win worst birthday. Totally. I did make sure to pick out a cake that didn’t have any of Cordy’s favorite characters on it. Didn’t want to deal with that drama.

    Lindsay – thanks for the insight! Cordy isn’t into helping much, but maybe we can find some job for her for the day. There will be other older kids there, too, so maybe she won’t even notice?

  5. I’d let your mom give Cordy a present if she wants to. That’s a grandma’s perogative. 🙂 I’d show Cordy pictures of her first birthday and talk about what Cordy did then. And then tell her what Mira will do at the party (smear cake in her hair, stay in one place mostly) and what Cordy will do (Eat cake! Play with the older kids! Show Mira how to blow out candles!)

    Have you read the book “Siblings Without Rivalry?” I found it really helpful.

  6. crunchycarpets says:

    Well, for one thing..Mira won’t know if she is getting ALL the attention yet.

    Wait for that fun later!!!

    My kids birthdays are a month apart.

    I would say for now…perhaps Cordy CAN have maybe ONE present.

    And have her involved. Tell her to ‘show’ Mira the cake and all that stuff. Give her a job to do…

    Mira doesn’t know yet…she won’t even really be feeling left out even for her second birthday.

    Don’t worry about Mira’s feelings yet…

    This is you more than her!

  7. I totally agree – my youngest two are 22 months apart. LP at nearly 4 is just starting to “get it” when the day isn’t for him and LB at turning two is too young to complain about that. We have seen enormous progress from last year to this year (like he was genuinely surprised when he got to open a little present at his older brother’s party. It was a game they could both enjoy) so I say indulge a little this first time around for Cordy, – it’s like giving kids party favors for leaving your house nicely, only just stepped up a bit because, well, you are all in this together and mostly your goal is to have Cordy think that Mira’s birthday is the second best day on the calendar and to have Mira think that Cordy’s birthday is the second best day on the calendar -sibling love, foster it early and you get paid dividends later. Also, you can do no wrong by letting them think in terms of abundance instead of scarcity – if not in material positions, at least in love and care – of course that often translates into things for our very concrete little people!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Instead of a ‘present’ could you take Cordy out to pick out a new outfit or hair accessories for herself and Mira? People would remark about how beautiful they look and she could take all the credit and attention for what she did!


  9. I’m the older of two children and I don’t recall ever receiving a gift on my brother’s birthday…it seems like this is a pretty common thing, though. I just got a gift onesie for my friend that says “Baby Brother” and it has an accompanying t-shirt that says “Big Sister.” It’s nice.

    Maybe you could get Cordy to help you get ready for the party? Involve her that way? Will she feel special if she has her own little job to do?

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m in the “let it be a special day for Mira camp”. True she is so young she won’t get it yet, but why start a precedent you don’t want to continue? It’s an important lesson to teach kids that they are not always the focus,not always the best. It reminds me of that trend I hate -the trend of giving awards to every kid that participates in every activity. it takes away the meaning of awards.

  11. I’ve done the first party for a sibling now six times. (Even my firstborn had half sibs there.) If your mom wants to give her a gift, go ahead. But I never gave my other kids gifts on the birthday child’s special day. I let them pass the gift to the baby, help open any gift after the first, blow out the candles and give the baby the first piece of cake. I showed pics of what their first party looked like. I didn’t want to start a precedent that I couldn’t afford to continue, and I think that the lesson that you won’t always be the center of attention is a good one.

    Just MTC.

  12. I’ve been trying to remember how my folks handled this issue with the four of us. As I recall, those who weren’t the birthday child were encouraged to help pick out presents, decorate, and (when we were a bit older) supervise the party goings-on.
    I’d think Cordy would enjoy helping to make Mira’s party special and being able to tell people that she helped.

  13. Well…being the mother of twins, born within 30 seconds of each other, I will never have this problem. We get full throttle all in the same day… the same week as Christmas. Ode to Joy.

    BUT– when I was growing up.. I am the middle child of 3, my mother always got us all a little something “so we wouldn’t fuss”. In fact,last Saturday was my brother’s 35th birthday, and I also got a little gift. It was kind of fun.

    I think now when Cordy is so young, she won’t understand totally that it is Mira’s special day…but as the years pass, she will get it and it won’t be a big deal.

  14. Hi Christina,
    My second daughter shares her birthday with a cousin, and a second cousin was born just the day before. So, last Christmas time we had a ‘Triple Birthday Carnival’ a huge family get together that mainly centered on our 3 one year olds…while my three year old watched. We made the day a real party, had ‘carnival’ games and cotton candy. Ashleigh helped us pick the colors, and helped set the tables. She knew it was her sister’s and her two cousin’s birthdays (isn’t THAT nuts? 3 babies in 13 hours! I swear!!)but because we involved her in the planning, she did not feel left out. Plus, we had her favorite movies and her favorite foods too. She got to have one of the first peices of cake, after the babies dived into their own smaller ones. We tried hard to include her, but let her know too, that it was Sydney’s day.

  15. We each got one small gift on our siblings birthdays. And, as we got older, my mom threw “kid only” parties and had the rest of us farmed out to friends so the bday kid got special attention.

    Gabe will be 1 in June and I plan on giving Liv one gift (Just something small).

  16. Make this birthday a special day for Cordy and you to bond. Tell her about all the surprises that she could give her baby sister. Make her feel that this is a important day for her too – as she is organizing a day of fun for her baby sister.
    And yes- one “surprise” gift from Mira to Cordy too?
    Also – I think at this stage Mira will be more concerned with chewing anything within reach rather than whether she is being left out – This is you worrying due to all the sibling rivalry. Mira will do fine – just encourage Cordy to want to celebrate her sisters birthday.

  17. I would not give Cordy a gift. If your Mom does though, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. (Although, I wonder if that would actually be more upsetting to her because the other people most likely will not be bringing her presents?) I would let her “help” Mira open her gifts IF you think she can handle it. I think kids need to learn they can’t be the focus all the time. My youngest two are 27 months apart, and I really worried about this, but my older one was a champ–he gets really excited for what the younger one gets.

  18. My first instinct is to say she doesn’t need to get a present–it’s not her birthday after all. But because Cordy is “on the spectrum” maybe you need to handle it differently? I don’t know enough about autism or Cordy to answer that question. One thing, though: my kids are pretty close together, and we didn’t buy gifts for the non birthday having kid. It worked out okay mostly because at the 1st birthday the one year old doesn’t have a clue so the two year old can “help” open the presents and it’s all fine. I find that a party is a party and it’s pretty exciting for BOTH of them, even the one that’s not the birthday kid. There’s cake! And balloons! And other people/kids! What fun! And that goes for both kids.

  19. We have a 3 and 1 year old also. I was really surprised by the number of gifts that my older daughter got at my youngest’s party! We did not buy #1 anything for #2’s birthday (we did have them “exchange” gifts when #2 was born). #2 didn’t get a gift for #1’s birthday…

    I wouldn’t get Cordy a present but I’m willing to bet your mom won’t be the only one who does. It’s just not necessary (it’s not Cordy’s birthday!).

  20. 3carnations says:

    Friends of ours have a highly functioning autistic older child. When their younger son had his birthday, they considered the following options: Having a no gift party, as it is difficult for her to see others get gifts, or having her at a friend’s house during the party. This girl is 9 years old, so she is a little older and has had more time to adjust to such things, yet it is still hard. While I agree that your younger daughter needs a deserves special days as she grows up, maybe since she is still so young, and Cordy is still adjusting, just this once a minor concession could be made. Just one or two small gifts for Cordy? Or a goody bag?

  21. MamaMichelsBabies says:

    We almost always do that for the younger ones. Once they hit 5, depending on their own personal development sometimes later, we end that notion.

    Also, this helps with Boogs, our 5 year old, we do something with him the day before, maybe something little, but with him and remind him of that the next day that way we have the reinforcement of “Back up kiddo, you had your time remember? Now it’s your brothers time”

    I like Cindy’s idea as well (although all of mine are boys and not “into” clothing other then if it is clean) Maybe Cordy having some amount of “control” will help.

    It will get better, the green monster of jealousy can be beaten into submission, it just takes a while.

  22. I completely see both sides of the story. I used to babsit a lot, and I would always bring the non birthday child something small, like a book and a pack of stickers, just so that they have something to open/call their own on their sibling’s day. Alternately, perhaps a gift that they can both use together, such as a wagon or one of those indoor see-saws?

  23. I’m not into the present for the older child thing (and I will be dealing with the same scenario in about 6 months). Of course Mira totally won’t care, but it’s a bad precedent to set (I’m sure Cordy won’t want to share her birthdays with Mira).

    It’s more like the getting of a thing to show that she’s special that I think marks a slippery slope.

    However, there are lots of other ways to include her in a positive manner. How ’bout if she’s chief decorator, or cake icer or lootbag hander-outer – or all of the above? I bet making her your helper will make her feel just as special as being the recipient of gifts. Plus, you can always give her something small (like a lootbag) as a ‘thank you’ present.

    Oh shoot, I just saw that you say Cordy’s not into helping out much. Maybe if you really play it up…

  24. You should get Cordy a present. When it’s Cordy’s birthday, you should get Mira a present.

    As they get older, you can explain better why one is getting presents and not the other, but when they’re both so young I say make your life easier by getting them both presents.

  25. Happy Veggie says:

    It’s good that Mira won’t remember it, but I don’t know if I would start a precedence. Especially since Cordy will. If you’re mom wants to do it, who knows if you can stop her, but you shouldn’t feel like you should have to.
    I’m an oldest, and I never got anything for my brother’s birthday. The deal is, i’ts all about whoever’s birthday it is and you have to get over it. I think you could do some kind of favor, but then do it for all of the kids, not the sibling only. I also like the idea of it being her job to show Mira how the whole birthday thing works.

    I also want to add, as someone who is the sibling of someone with special needs (limited to dyslexia and AD/Learning issues, but it was still something that caused tension) that there are going to be lots of times that Cordy is going to get the attention/take the spotlight out of necessity. Making sure that Mira gets to have some special time is a good thing, for both of them. Birthdays are one good opportunity to do that.

  26. Wisconsin Mommy says:

    I am also an only, so take my advice with that knowledge and decide what it is worth 😉

    I am also in the “let Mira have her day” camp. I used to have to deal with the students who had grown up with everything being very carefully “equal” in their house. Real life (and my classroom) was a shock to them. Now these were 9 year olds, who are a very different animal than 3 year olds…I am learning that lesson DAILY from Little J.

    I would always tell them, it won’t always be equal, but it will be FAIR. I hope I can get that across to my own child when the time is right…figuring out when that time is might be tough!

    Gee, I’m not much help, am I?

  27. Karianna says:

    My take on it:

    The Cat received presents “from” Spliggle right after the latter was born. I placed a photo of the Cat in Spliggle’s little bassinet thingy at the hospital. It read “I love my Big Brother!” The presents at that time were meant to be a “Congratulations for Becoming a Big Brother” thing.

    But I did NOT get the Cat presents on Splig’s 1st (or subsequent) birthdays. I stayed firm that Splig’s birthday is his alone to celebrate. Likewise, Splig doesn’t get any gifts on the Cat’s birthday.

    Sure, there may be disappointment and jealousy when Cordy sees that Mira is getting all the attention and all the gifts, but it is a learning experience, and the “You remember during your birthday you got…” helps. Preparation helps, too: “Cordy: Today we’re celebrating Mira’s birthday. I know you wish you could get presents, but this is Mira’s special day… Would you like to celebrate by helping us put up a few decorations?

    (ie, involve her in the process, turning it into a positive: “Look! Cordy is such a great Big Sister! She put up some streamers. And look! She drew some pictures of party hats and ducks to help us celebrate Mira’s birthday!”)

    I’d really discourage anyone (grandparents) from bringing presents for Cordy. It sends the wrong message.

    If Cordy melts down, then one grandparent (or one parent) can take her to another room to have some quiet time. It need not be a “punishment,” but just be an opportunity to be away from the rather boisterous celebration that is *not* in her honor. No good trying to force her to smile and socialize when she is feeling “left out.”

  28. Amanda Cowan says:

    We’re dealing with a lot of the same issues. Grace was excellent with Cate..until Cate was more interactive and wanted time with us too.. now that she’s into that, Grace is much more attention-seeking. I hadn’t even thought about what to do about the birthday. Although, since we’re here with no family close, we probably won’t do much other than maybe a cake or something.. We’ve already got so many toys and whatnot. If I were to go by my own situation I would say no on the toy, unless someone else is wanting to get her something. Like, if my mother in law wanted to get something for Grace as well as Cate.. My mom sent things for both girls on Graces’ birthday.. so I don’t think it’s anything that will come as unusual over the next few years.. But I won’t be getting Grace a present myself. But that is our situation.. Since you’re having a party, and Cordy won’t be the center stage of this one.. a present (maybe not necessarily from you but another family member) might help to smooth that detail over.. a good distraction. Good luck! I hope it goes well for you all!

  29. I share my birthday with my older sister, so I’ve never even HAD my own birthday. She was a week late, I was a week early, and fate stepped in to make us exactly six years apart. The kicker is that I’ve actually forgotten about her birthday some years!

  30. Condo Blues says:

    I’m with kgirl and Karianna. No presents for the sib on the birthday sib’s day. Not even little ones from the Grandparents. Because it sets a precendent and Cordy may expect to get even a “little something” on Mira’s future birthdays. I know of what I speak because I was that older sib who always got a little gift on my little sister’s birthday from my grandparents because they “didn’t want to leave me out.” After the first “oh, just this once” birthday my grandparents kept giving me little trinkets on my sister’s birthday. When my mom put her foot down to my Gs to stop giving me the gifts they still slid me something on down low. I began to expect a gift on my sister’s b-day. My little sister hated and resented it. It put a strain on our childhood relationship (we’re OK as adults.)

    I like the idea of trying to involve Cordy in being a Big Sister Helper for Mira’s b-day. Even if Cordy’s not into sharing (what 3 year old is?), I’d a least give it a try. It could save you some sisterly heartache later down the road.

  31. NO.NO.NO.

    Haven’t read the other comments so I don’t know what they said. But…

    Mira needs her own day and Cordy needs to deal with it. There will be Cordy days and Mira days. That’s just life. If you set the precedent now, then Cordy will have a hard time adjusting later. She needs to learn that it just isn’t about her. And when it is HER bday, she will get the spotlight.

  32. I would get her a little something- like a book- she’s still little and has lots of time and future opportunity to learn that life is unfair and sucks a lot of time…

  33. It is so great to read everyone’s ideas. My girls are 23 months, 3 weeks apart so I pretty much celebrate their birthdays together as a party but do individual family celebrations on each of their birth days. Do you know that my older daughter never cared that Kayla was only getting presents on her birthday? Do you know why? Kayla was too little to open her own presents so big sister Alyssa always helped her and that made her happy. All she needed was to help open the presents and it completely satisfied her. Maybe Cordy would be satisfied with helping Mira open the gifts?????

  34. courtneyryan369 says:

    I’m with the “give Cordy a small gift too” camp. My brother and I are 25 and 28 and we still get small gifts on each other’s bday.

    Granted this year my mom handed me a $20 on the way to the airport and says “Buy your brother beer and tell him I said ‘Happy Courtney’s B’day!'”

  35. I say, if your mom wants to give Cordy a present, more power to her. However, it’s probably not a precedent you want to set with her. She is old enough to understand this is for Mira, but there are plenty of other ways she can be involved. And there’s good chance others maybe bring her a little special something too…I just don’t think YOU should be the one to give it.
    She’ll be excited to help blow out the candle since I’m sure Mira can’t do it yet!!

  36. Misguided Mommy says:

    You know, I’ll be dealing with this same thing, and I don’t think I will give my older one a present. He needs to learn it isn’t his day. I mean, does this mean that if you take Cordy to another childs birthday, ie a friend from school, she should get a present so she doesn’t feel left out at the other birthday party? I think giving her a present is only going to set the bar to expect presents always when it isn’t her day. There is probably a lot of kids in her class that would be a lot of extra presents to buy, just to appease her.

  37. Supposedly when we were little my sister would throw a fit on my birthday, and eventually my parents did start to get a present for her for a few years. I have no memory of it at all, so I don’t feel like it affected me. From my perspective now, birthday parties are stressful days in general so if it made life easier for my parents to have my birthday party, it may have been worth it.

  38. crunchy carpets says:

    oh yeah and my dh’s mom gave them BOTH gifts ..usually SAME things on their birthdays..so it NEVER felt special.

    So yeah..one doing without on ONE day is fine…just when they are old enough to ‘get it’

  39. I agree that Mira won’t know the difference yet. Maybe something that isn’t all about her, but still recognizes her, like the “I’m the BIG sister” shirts or something?
    Good luck!

  40. Well, at first I was going to say yeah, she needs a day of her own. But then I thought of my own older child, and how the best way to ensure something like that for the younger child would be to head off tantrums if at all possible, thereby allowing you to give that attention to Mira, and giving her a bit more of a day of her own.

  41. We have always enforced the “if it’s not their birthday, no presents.” rule. I had a lot of resistance with the older two from grandparents. I take the child out and choose a special present for the birthday child, just from them. I also try to find little jobs at the party. Sometimes, you just have to deal with the meltdown in order for them to understand just because someone else is getting a gift, doesn’t mean they get one too. Because “just this one time” never turns out that way.

  42. “Because “just this one time” never turns out that way.”

    A big Amen to that.

    I’ve got 4 children (all grown now) but they all celebrated their own birthdays…no gifts for other siblings. They were all born on different days and those days were super special, remained super special and will always be super special because it is THEIR day and only theirs.

    If you make special allowances for this you’ll find yourself making special allowances for lots of other things. Once you start it’s hard to find the right place to stop.

    If you decide that Mira is going to have her own special day make sure your mother respects that. Same for when Cordy’s birthday rolls around. Mira will have to allow Cordy to shine on that day.

    I totally agree with those who suggest involving Cordy in other aspects of Mira’s celebration. Helping pick out the cake, the party decorations, a gift from her to Mira. But when it comes to gift opening and candle blowing…either my husband or myself helped the young ones. Otherwise once again you set the precedent of the birthday celebrant having to sharing the perks of being the birthday girl.

    There are so many ways to include Cordy in Mira’s birthday celebration without taking the spotlight away from Mira. And vice versa…Mira will have to learn to step back on Cordy’s special day.

    It’s hard to believe a yr has gone by! Happy Birthday to Mira!