When the founder and director of Birthday Connections, Benita Webber, attended a recent NEJC Chamber meeting, another member asked her about her organization. She explained that Birthday Connections “empowers families with dignity and resources to celebrate their children’s birthdays in a meaningful way.” Her answer immediately struck a chord with him, and he responded with the following powerful story.
When the now 40-year-old man turned 16, he was living with his divorced mom while the rest of his three siblings lived with their dad. “When you’re a kid, your birthday is the most important day of the year,” he said. “It’s the one day that’s all yours.”
Since his birthday falls three days after Christmas, he explained that he was already in that overlooked category of a December birthday celebration, often getting short-changed. “I woke up on my 16th birthday expecting something and to my mom, it was just another day.”
His mother worked two jobs at the time and “was a busy parent trying to figure out how to survive. I didn’t mention it to her because her other kids already gave her enough stress. I tried to be the one not giving her stress.”
“I thought maybe she’d bring home a cupcake or birthday cake but no, it was dinner as usual.”
Still, he said nothing to his mom about her missing his 16th birthday.
The next day was a Saturday. The 16-year-old and his mom sat at the kitchen table. She asked him, “Honey, what are we going to do today?” He answered her with a question. “Mom, did you forget something?”
“I forget stuff all the time. Why?” she said.
“Yesterday was a special day. Yesterday was my birthday.”
He said he still remembers how she looked when she burst into tears. “The look on her face was just as sad as the look on the face of a disappointed child.”
This man and his wife now have four kids of their own, so he knows how heartbreaking that look could be. And he vowed that his “kids would never feel that way. No present. No party. No recognition.”
Fast-forward to today. He has more than kept his word. The man and his wife always remember his kids’ birthdays. Even more, the kids are also celebrated on their half-birthdays as well. The couple also recognizes their nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays too.
“Birthdays aren’t always about gifts and a cake. They’re a time to build bonds and to appreciate each other. They’re a time to give undivided attention and unconditional love,” he said.
And we couldn’t agree more.
He has long forgiven his mom. To this day, his mom has never forgotten his birthday again.