Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That awful, horrible Happy Birthday song (and an otherwise good day)

This weekend, I discovered a new form of torture and it is called "Happy Birthday To You." Prior to Max's party, I had never realized just how evil that song is. Now that I am fully aware, I would like to know what that kindergarten principal and her pianist sibling who came up with the melody were thinking.

Here's what went down at Max's birthday party, whose theme can best be described as Purple Cars 2 And More Purple and whose mood can best be described as 85 percent happy, 15 percent meltdown. We held it at an art studio, and Max spent the first hour of the party at the various stations painting with purple, drawing with purple, mixing up purple shaving cream and making himself a purple frame. The kids, mostly from his class, were all really enjoying themselves.

Inspecting the paint to make sure it is just the right shade of purple

He particularly loved this table, where you could dip cars in purple paint and make purple tracks.

Time to make the purple shaving cream

Portrait of an artist as a purple young man

My niece, Margo, my sis and her husband dressed in purple in honor of Max.

My niece Gillian and Sabrina

Max was determined to color every speck of this frame purple, and he did.

Max and Sabrina, collaborating on a finger-painted masterpiece

At last, cake time. Max was gleeful that I'd gotten him the exact ice-cream cake he'd coveted, props to my sister-in-law and her husband for transporting it.

Then people began to sing "Happy birthday to you" in a low voice. Max lost it and started wailing, and then he went into this tailspin of angst and he did not stop crying for a good twenty minutes.

I would like to say that I remained calm, but I got upset. Sometimes, my expectations for making Max happy get the best of me and I wig out inside, right along with Max.

Dave whisked Max out of the room where all the kids were sitting, eagerly awaiting cake, and then we both tried to calm him down but he wouldn't be soothed and I desperately wished the place stocked some Birthday Mom valium, along with the paint and pom-poms.

My good friend Paola stepped in to cut the cake. That tightness in my chest didn't ease up unti 1) Max finally stopped crying and started eating birthday cake and 2) Paola jokingly suggested that we duck out to the bar across the street for a martini.

By the time we were ready to head out, Max was upset because the party was over. He wanted to stay, he told us. At home, he reverted to his usual cheerful self. He had another portion of birthday cake, he opened presents (he now has Cars 2 stuff up the wazoo), and he bemusedly listened to Sabrina's new song: "Happy birthday to whoop-dee-doo."

And then he woke up the next morning and told me it was his birthday that day, too.


  1. My daughter who is almost 11 also panics for the birthday song...my husband and I now take turns covering her ears or removing her from the room when we know it is coming and we don't sing anymore at her parties. I was just telling my girlfriend the other day that there are all these little things about being her mommy that no one understands. I'm glad to read that there is someone out there that understands :-)

  2. Belated birthday wishes to Max! NINE?? Man, time is flying.

  3. Love the cake! Very thoughtful and fun party. Max will not doubt have purply fond memories.

  4. Twenty minutes of wailing is a long time... my condolences.

    Otherwise, happy bd! (my middle son turned 10 on Dec 10. Time flies...)

  5. Even with the wailing, I think Max truly enjoyed celebrating his birthday with his family and friends. You really did a terrific job in keeping with the theme and organizing everthing. The pictures are great. We all had a wonderful time celebrating with you and Max.

  6. I have a vague recollection of hearing about a Happy Birthday aversion before. It's right up there with Santa Claus and clowns in the "supposed to make kids happy but often backfires" category. Who can understand the child mind? When I was a kid, there was a television show that was rather cute, but for some reason left me really uncomfortable and fearful, though my parents never knew about it at the time.

  7. Love Max's cake! I guess you can feel good that his meltdown wasn't worse than what it was, and at least most of the party was fun for him. I was very shy at Max's age and even though I had birthday parties I hated the attention and never participated fully. For my 9th birthday we went bowling, and my mom says I never even bowled because I was too shy to try. Good thing I don't remember that because now even though I suck at bowling I wouldn't mind people watching me suck. ^_^

  8. Looks like a fabulous party, and sounds very similar to our little guys bday in October. He had a great time, and then we brought out his adorable Dinosaur cake and everyone started singing Happy Birthday (a song he LOVES and begs to play on the iPad all the time!) and he lost it. It was so sad to have to take him to a different room and wait for him to calm down - but then he was fine again and came back to eat cake. Guess I've learned we just shouldn't have everyone sing to him.

  9. I'm glad to know my daughter is not the only one who passionately HATES that song. Doesn't matter who's party it is she starts screaming wildly whenever they sing Happy Birthday.

  10. Happy Belated Birthday to Max! My five year who also has cerebral palsy can't hear twinkle Twinkle Little Star because he will start crying. And he looks so sad. Never have figured out why?

  11. 85% is pretty good, I've settled for less. My youngest does not like the Birthday Song either. He will not sing it to anyone and absolutely no singing it to him. We have been letting him pick if he wants a song or not and if so what song before he blows out his candles. His last Birthday he choose She'll Be Coming Around The Mountain When She Comes and he sang Skip To My Lou for my Mom on her birthday. My Birthday is next we will see what song he chooses for me. It has actually became a very special tradition.

  12. Why is birthday mom valium not more readily available? Why?

  13. For several years, we had to take my son out of the room at birthday parties when it was time to sing the song because he couldn't hear it without melting down.

    FWIW: My typical and cool brother is in his mid-40s and won't let us sing Happy Birthday to him at his family parties.

  14. Damn the Happy Birthday Song glad Max had a good time for the most part.

  15. My brother is terrified of Happy Birthday as well. He will SCREAM and cry, and we end up just whispering the song.

  16. My niece is 2 and a half and has been terrified of the birthday song since year one. She panics at her birthday and everyone else's when she hears it, but yet she'll sing it to herself randomly throughout the year when she thinks no one is listening...is there something wrong? Whhhy is this so common?


Thanks for sharing!

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