I used to have a perfectly good birthday. Sure, I’d complain about it sometimes. “It’s too close to the beginning of the school year,” I’d say. But really, I was just trying to make my friends with bad birthdays feel better—the ones born in summer when everyone’s away, or on the day after Christmas. Truthfully, I loved my birthday. It was a perfect time for a party, right when people were revving up after summer vacation. It was shared by D.H. Lawrence, who wrote the first dirty book I was assigned to read by an actual teacher. It was long and fancy sounding. I never even noticed that the numbers spelled out 9-1-1.
My solution to the 9/11 Bad Birthday Problem has generally been to ignore it. Not just the 9/11 part, but the birthday entirely. This has worked out OK for me as I haven’t really felt much need to celebrate my aging process. But what if you have a kid born on this Bad Birthday? Because odds being what they are, some of you do.
According to the NY Times, expecting parents go to great lengths to avoid saddling their children with this birthday burden:
“Obstetricians report women due to deliver on Sept. 11 who insist on scheduling an earlier C-section to avoid saddling their child with a tainted birthday. At P.S. 22 in Staten Island, children born on Sept. 11 made a poignant video declaring that their birthday had been “taken away” and “ruined.”
I suspect that being born on 9/11 post-2001 is probably emotionally easier than having had this birthday before the terrorist attacks. A new 9/11 birthday can be a story of redemption instead of the story of a happy day turned into a horrible one. If you have a child with this birthday, you can always celebrate it publicly on another day if you’re worried about asking people to party when they are focused on solemn remembrance. But I think it’s important to show your child that you can transcend the tragedy. Something really, really bad happened on this day, yes. But some pretty good things happened on this day, too.
Dahlia Gruen’s 10th birthday fell on the day of the 2001 attacks. Years later, she started Birthdayspirit.com, a web site for people who share her conflicted birthday. Her goal is to reclaim the day, not just for celebration, but for good deeds. Maybe, she suggests, being born on 9/11 can be a way to bring more meaning to the day rather than letting it be swallowed up by sadness. Her ideas:
Make a Wish…
“When I blow out the candles on my birthday cake my special wish is for love and peace throughout the world. This is a time for people everywhere to think positive thoughts and not to dwell on the negative. We can change the world if we all remember that we are truly a spark from the same original source regardless of what religion/God/infinite wisdom we are accustomed to believe in.”
Light an Extra Candle
Thanks to Amanda G. for a great suggestion: Light an extra candle on your birthday cake this year in memory of those who lost their lives on this date.
Bring a Cake to your Local Firefighters
Thanks to Miriam K. for another great suggestion: Bring a birthday cake to your local fire station to show our appreciation for their work and share our birthday with them.
When Andrea Stanley’s son was born on 9/11/08, she considered fudging his birth date. But ultimately, she decided it was important to be honest, and that there might perhaps be an important message for her son in the day he was born.
“There is no way to write away what happened on a day that barters with our most common sensibilities about the humanity of our world. But I will teach my son that in our darkest moments there is always light. There is always hope. And he is both for me. One day, maybe he’ll be that for others as well.”
I dunno about light and hope. But I do like the idea of reclaiming the day with positivity of some kind. Or at the very least, not letting the terrorists take possession of my birthday permanently. Step 1: Public acknowledgment. I now have a birthday on Facebook.