HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! (Do your kids buy you gifts?)

Do your kids buy you gifts on your birthday?

Here’s a downer: My birthday is losing its magic. What are we celebrating anyway? The fact that the past year vanished in a blink? That I’m now counting the number of years left with all three kids in the house on two fingers? The laugh lines that are anything but funny?

The last thing I wanted to do last year, when I turned 45 (that’s halfway to 90 in case you’re bad at math), was focus on my age. Not even gifts could ease the pain. Or so I thought.

When the kids were little, my husband took them to the mall to meditate on me and what I might want. I’d rip open the wonky-taped wrapping to find all kinds of cheesy thingamajigs, anything from a plastic popcorn bowl to a photo frame in the shape of a hand. I couldn’t use half the stuff, but it was all precious, having been picked as worthy for me by my kids.

Last year, the teens had outgrown the annual shopping trip. They had movies to see, video games to play. Sure, their dad reminded them. In fact, he marched into their rooms where they sat plugged into their computers and announced the big birthday countdown. Daily, maybe twice a day. For two weeks straight. Yeah, yeah, they nodded, we know. They had bank accounts. They were subway riders. It was all good.

When I woke up on my 45th birthday, the tween came rushing in with the familiar twinkle in his eyes. He handed me an envelope and out slid a Starbucks card he’d bought with his tooth fairy stash. Shocker, that little card made my day. I was special and my kid knew it.

I’m not into guilting people to do things they don’t feel and I’d like to think that material goods don’t matter to me. But when my teens didn’t bother getting off their butts to buy me a gift last year, I was a prickly combination of mad, sad and taken for granted. I felt like snatching back all those strawberries I’d sliced and all those rides at midnight in my pjs and all that cash I slipped into their pockets and all the rest that I do for no good reason other than the fact that I love seeing them smile.

Apparently, last Friday, as my day rolled around yet again, my husband secretly sent the teens a text:

“Mom’s birthday is in 24 hours. It will mean a lot to her if you buy a gift. And it will mean a lot to her if you don’t.”

When I got home from running around on my birthday morning, I just assumed the teens were out cold. After all, it was only 2pm and they’d had a long, hard night on Facebook. Then the tween, handing me my twinkly Starbucks card, told me that his brother and sister were gone. They had walked out together to get me a gift.

Zing. Knowing that my kids cared enough to think beyond themselves brought the birthday magic back. The smile they brought to my face – that was the real gift. The turquoise key chain with the little watch inside that now keeps me from searching every purse for my keys like a dotty old grandma? Yeah, it’s pretty cool, too.





About randi

Randi Chapnik Myers & Mara Shapiro don't get fazed by their teens. At least they try not to.


  1. You’re lucky your husband remembers to tell them. That’s the first step. My kids hardly ever buy me a gift, but the perfect one always makes me a card.


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