Slate Plus members get more Care and Feeding from Carvell Wallace every week.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My baby son’s first birthday and Christmas are only a few weeks apart. Any advice on how to manage this? We don’t want him to be inundated with gifts for the whole month of December, but we also don’t want him to feel like no one cares it’s his birthday.
—Too Close for Comfort
Ugh, what bad luck for the kid. Holiday birthdays are the worst. When your kid is old enough, tell him that Carvell at Slate feels his struggle. But he’s going to have to get used to it. And fortunately, he’s not the only person who’s ever gone through this, so a clear path of do’s and don’ts has already been well-laid. Here are just a few.
1. Never combine gifts. That means no Christmas wrapping paper on birthday gifts and no birthday wrapping paper on Christmas gifts. Make sure your relatives also know not to try to be slick by combining birthday and Christmas presents into one. No sirree, you say, not in my house.
2. Celebrate his birthday on his birthday. That night, have cake, pizza, ice cream—whatever makes him happy. It doesn’t have to be a huge blowout party since people are busy at this time of year, but make sure he never, ever feels that his family is giving his actual birthday short shrift because of the holiday.
3. Don’t put up the Christmas decorations until after his birthday has passed. Make it the post-birthday tradition.
4. Plan your gift-giving way in advance. There are big-ticket items and small-ticket items. Make sure big-ticket items are evenly distributed between the two gift-giving holidays. No one wants to get a bike, a gaming system, and a guitar for their birthday and then nine pairs of boxers and a presidential history coloring book on Christmas.
5. Recognize that this will only matter for a few years. He won’t start caring until he’s around 4, and by 13 he’ll be way too cool to let on that he’s hung up on this. So you don’t have to do it perfectly forever—just well enough that he doesn’t feel like you don’t care about him.
6. And finally: Celebrate half-birthdays! Have a pool party midsummer just to give your kid some extra fun!