Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Unhappy birthday to you

I knew thing were not headed in a good direction when Max kept insisting that Friday wasn't Ben's birthday, even though he knew full well it was. I wasn't sure what was up, but it was all revealed that night, when we went out for dinner.

Ben had decided he wanted rice and beans for his birthday meal, so we headed to a cute little Mexican restaurant. Max hesitated to go in. Then he said that he didn't want us to sing Happy Birthday to Ben. I figured he just didn't want to deal with the noise level. He's gotten past a lot of his sensory issues, yet not completely. We sat down. Max insisted on sitting at the next table over with Dave. OK, then. I just wanted to keep the peace.

The birthday boy ate chips and a strawberry smoothie for dinner. He was quite happy. Then the nice server found out it was his birthday and soon, she and several staffers approached our table with a piece of cake and a candle. And of course, they started to sing "Happy Birthday."

Max erupted into howls, screeches and tears. "Noooooo!" he yelled. He said something about the Disney Cruise, and I realized he was pointing out that we had already sung Happy Birthday to Ben during dinner when we were on vacation last week. Ah.

Dave took Max outside to calm down as Ben blew out his candle and enjoyed his cake. I paid the bill. When we left, I told Max that it was not nice to behave that way on Ben's birthday. "You wouldn't like it if Ben yelled on your birthday, would you?" I asked. He didn't answer. I said I didn't think he should go to the dance at school that night because of his behavior. He roared some more.

Later, Dave and I agreed he could go—Max doesn't have many opportunities to socialize with friends from school—as long as he sincerely apologized to Ben. "I'm sorry!" Max told Ben, and broke into tears. He seemed genuinely contrite. "It's OK, Max!" Ben said.

It was a side of Max I hadn't really seen before: jealousy. Ben's had parties for his first and second birthdays, but this time around got to Max—who's certainly had his fair share of attention over the years. I felt awful for Ben, but he didn't seem fazed by what happened. Nothing that years of therapy down the road won't cure!

Ben's party for his little friends, at a gym, is coming up in early November. We'll be having plenty of discussions with Max before then about letting Ben enjoy his special day.

Max: a work in progress.

Parenting: a work in progress.

Our family: a work in progress.


  1. We had the same scenario for many years, even with regular help from a psychologist. Empathy was very slow to develop.

    If it wasn't behaviors, there was also impeccable timing to get sick on a sibling's birthday!

    It did finally improve. I hope the party in November goes well!

    P.S. Sometimes a sincere apology needs to come later - that's OK too.

  2. I can relate to a certain point. My younger brother as born 4 years and 363 AFTER me and we always shared family birthday. That being said you really NEED to nip this in the bud. If M:ax continues this behavior I would allow Ben, to get a gift on Max's birthday as punishment!

  3. Everyone is jealous sometimes. I think you need to sit Max down and explain “ I know it’s can feel bad when it’s someone else’s birthday and you really wish it was yours instead. It’s ok to feel bad. But it is not ok to yell or scream about this. That is very unfair to Ben. Saying you are sorry is not enough. You must let Ben have his special times like his party that is soon. If you make trouble by refusing to go in or yell or scream when we are singing to Ben you will not be allowed to —— for a week ( something he loves to do) and daddy and I will have to spend more special time alone with Ben to make up for what you have done.

  4. Sounds like you handled it beautifully. My parents always gave the other sibling a small present on the other kid's birthday so we wouldn't get jealous. :-)


Thanks for sharing!

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