It was Noah’s birthday this past weekend. He turned 11 years old at 8:44 p.m. on Saturday night and we threw him a party. I could use this space to tell you how proud I am of this incredibly sweet, intelligent, inquisitive boy at the center of this photo, but that wasn’t where my mind was on his birthday. Instead, I was thinking about the hardest job at a child’s birthday party.

It’s not the Mom, who typically does most of planning and execution of the party. It’s not the Dad who indulges the Mom’s wild ideas (like taking 7 little boys out for fondue and then a sleepover) and goes along with her schemes with a smile even though he thinks she had gone totally loco. It’s not the birthday boy who has to manage his social obligations, making sure that all of his guests feel included and welcome – and thank everyone for their attendance and gifts. And it’s not even the clowns, magicians, waiters, comedians, face painters, sing along-ers, or anyone we hire for entertainment/support who has to put up with all of our s-t to make a buck. The hardest job at a child’s birthday party is:

The Birthday Brother.

It has to suck being the birthday brother. Even if you L-O-V-E the birthday boy as only a brother could, watching your sibling get all the attention and presents while you get squat requires more self restraint than most adults could ever muster. For a single day, you do not matter. You have no say in the agenda, the cast of characters, or even where you sit. In fact, in some cases, you are lucky just to be invited.

Despite the obstacles, Chase did remarkably well at Noah’s birthday party. And he almost made it to the finish line. Sadly, he was overcome with the lack of attention around 11:30 p.m. and had to make his move. He could not help himself, inciting some sort of major disturbance involving a sleeping bag and Noah’s closet. The older boys, who had been extremely gracious and kind to him all night long, did only what they knew best. Defense. They locked him in the closet. Game over.

I did what any mother of the birthday brother would. I released him from captivity, dried his tears, gave him kisses all over his wet face, and promised that for his birthday he could lock Noah in a closet.


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