(Not Very) Many Happy Returns

As you get older, your birthday holds less excitement and expectation than it does as a child.  Nevertheless,  it’s still your special day and it’s nice to have a bit of a fuss made of you and, of course, to receive cards and gifts from your loved ones.

I always ensure that my friends and relatives receive well chosen, thoughtful gifts and cards in good time for their birthday.  At the beginning of each year, I write all the birthdays I need to remember on the wall calendar, and that way I know who I need to buy for and nobody gets forgotten.  Hardly rocket science, is it?

So, about a month ago, I found Ashley hunting in the filing cabinet in my office.  I asked him what he was looking for.  Passports, he says.  Why, I ask.  Turns out he’s checking when my birthday is.

CHECKING WHEN MY BIRTHDAY IS?  He’s been married to me for sixteen frickin’ years, does he seriously need to look at my passport to check when my birthday is?

Earlier that day, I’d seen my brother and sister-in-law, and they’d given me my birthday present, as it was too big to post and they don’t live locally.  I’d put it away in the spare room, as my birthday isn’t until the end of August, and Ashley had seen it and panicked that he’d forgotten my birthday!

Several years ago, my mother- and father-in-law completely forgot my birthday. They phoned up a couple of days later, absolutely oblivious, had a chat, asked what we’d been doing.  Celebrating my birthday last Sunday, says I.   Long silence on the other end of the phone.   Oh, did we miss it?  I was very hurt and upset at the time.

Last night I had mother-in-law and aunt-in-law over for dinner.  We were talking about various people’s ages at one point in the conversation, and I said that I wasn’t looking forward to being 44 next week.  Next week?  says MIL in tones of horror.  Oh.  I always think your birthday’s in September.  Oh, so you’d forgotten again, had you?  Nice.  She then goes on to say that she wouldn’t mind at all if somebody forgot her birthday, because ‘they’d remember eventually’.  I said that I simply did not believe that if Ashley failed to even telephone and wish her a happy birthday on the actual day, that she wouldn’t be upset.  She tried to deny it, but the wind was taken out of her sails when Ashley’s aunt piped up ‘Yes, you would, you’d be devastated.’

I have a close friend whose birthday is a couple of weeks before mine.  She lives about five miles away, and I always either give her her card and present sometime before her birthday if we’re getting together in the couple of weeks beforehand, or deliver it to her house on her birthday or the day before.

Sadly, she doesn’t afford me the same courtesy and seems to think it’s acceptable to give me my present and card whenever she sees me after my birthday.  Once it was October.

To me, that’s unacceptable.

My other sister-in-law completely forgot William’s birthday in February this year.  Last month was her daughter’s birthday, and I sent a card (on time of course).

Last week I had a text from sister-in-law saying that she hadn’t thanked me for her daughter’s present as she’d only received a card, and had I left the present elsewhere (presumably she meant at her ex-husband’s house).

I replied saying that I’d assumed we were no longer bothering with presents for the kids as she hadn’t sent anything at all on William’s birthday, but that I felt I wanted to send a card to my niece, so I had done.

To be fair, she was very apologetic and said that she couldn’t believe she’d forgotten about it.

My side of the family always remember birthdays and ensure gifts and cards arrive on time.  But it seems we are in the minority these days.

To me, the very act of giving timely gifts and cards is a statement of your love/friendship/affection for the recipient.  Forgetting completely or giving something weeks after the event just says in foot high words ‘you are of very little importance to me’.

My husband is also in my bad books birthday-wise.  We are off to Spain with hand luggage only to keep travel costs down tomorrow, hence I shan’t have any presents to open on my birthday, but will have cards.   I mentioned to Ashley last weekend that it would be nice if he’d take Will shopping to choose a card for me.  I know, pititful that I have to even ask, he should think of it himself, but he doesn’t.  Guess what, we’re off tomorrow morning, he’s at work all day today, and he hasn’t taken William shopping.  Nice.

If you’ve got to the end of this self-pitying rant and are still reading, well done.

I’d love to know other people’s thoughts on this – am I unreasonable in my expectations?


14 thoughts on “(Not Very) Many Happy Returns

  1. We take birthdays seriously in my family too, so I am in complete agreement with all your comments re the giving of cards/gifts in a timely manner, and don’t think you are being even the tiniest bit unreasonable. If, for any reason, I wasn’t able to get someone’s card/gift to them in time then I would contact them on their birthday to wish them many happy returns and explain that something was on its way. I also agree that fathers should make sure that their sons/daughters have the opportunity to buy their mothers a card! Unless he is giving you a home made card this year maybe?

  2. I tend to agree with you. I have a friend who has a birthday in the first few days of January. She lives in the US and I ALWAYS send her present late because of when it is, but thankfully she is very forgiving! I love giving presents, the choosing and the wrapping and this is much more exciting to me than opening my own gifts! I would be livid if I found my husband trying to find when my birthday was!
    I hope you do enjoy your special day when it arrives and have a fab time in Spain.
    Lisa x

  3. I completely understand. My dear son hardly ever even gives me a card and nothing on mothers day either. But when he does see me he will give me a present but oh for something on the actual day! For my 50th birthday we were in Hong Kong (arranged by me of course) and I brought out all my cards with me to open on the day. I had a card from my husband with the usual salutation of Love xxxxx but nothing else. I was devastated. He hadn´t forgotten but because I had said I wanted another siamese cat which we were going to collect in a few weeks that was sufficient. Noooooooooooo. What about a small token at least! I so hated turning 50 and I am sure that was something to do with it.

    There is no excuse for a husband not to know your birthday off by heart.

    On the other side I always got my Dad´s birthday muddled up it was the end of October and for some reason I always had it in my mind it was the end of September. One year, many, many years ago I turned up on 30th September and wished him a Happy Birthday and hoped he liked his present. He said that he did but thought it was a bit early as it wasn´t until the following month!

    Now can you please tell me how to travel with only hand luggage. We are off to Barcelona early October for four days and I have not a clue how I am going to manage with only 10 kilos of hand luggage. My make up and toiletries must take up half of that!

  4. Brilliant post. The birthdays thing kills me – my kids esp. don’t have lots of family so cards etc mean everything to them. Hubby’s family are terrible at mailing things over here – I know it is airmail etc but after 16+ years you’d have thought they knew UK-USA post is more than 4 days!!
    The number of times at their birthdays they have phoned on the day and spoilt it by insisting that they DID send something…and daily afterwards to ask if it has arrived…… I think MIL hears my voice and knows I am annoyed as she has, in the past even emailed me copies of receipts from the post office!!!
    Have a lovely birthday. Here’s hoping your husband has small but expensive jewellry squirelled away some place in his carry on bag 🙂

  5. Oooh sore subject obviously!!
    I have to do the same thing…………hint when we are all out together, that my birthday is coming up and shouldn’t he take them into the card shop to choose their cards!! Plus, most of the time, I buy my own birthday and Christmas pressies and just give them to him to wrap up…………….in paper I have bought!!!
    Enjoy your special day!!

  6. We’re abut crap in our family I must say. So I guess we are all a bit lax so am forgiving of my family and others generally. I do like at least a phone call though. And will do my utmost to at least make sure I do that in return. But am also getting to be a bit against gifts, as unless they are something you really really want it can just be clutter that you feel obligated to hang on to. So I do try and give gifts that can be consumed. Food and drink and experiences etc. we also try and make something, lately there has been a spate of recordings, and recordings of comedy poems written. My parents forgot our wedding anniversary this year, though and were a bit surprised given they had remembered to send cards in previous years. And no phone call either. So I guess after all that ramble, there is a difference between not sending a card of gift, which we often do, and forgetting altogether, which we don’t.

  7. I agree with you totally about the birthday forgetfulness. I don’t tend to forget peoples’ birthdays that I love and I want the same in return! Sometimes I have to hint about the upcoming birthday and that really bothers me because I try not to forget anyone’s birthday. Some people don’t think anything of saying they forgot and are not embarrassed by it. Maybe it doesn’t mean much to them so they don’t think it means much to anyone else. I don’t know. My daughter has a sister in law who never remembers her kids’ birthday (my daughter has twin boys). Yet, my daughter goes out of her way to deliver gifts to her 3 kids and they don’t live nearby. It’s quite a ride to her sister in law’s house. She feels hurt by that but said that her sister in law is quite rude and doesn’t even realize that she missed their birthday AGAIN (every year). What can we say about that? I guess she’s just rude and doesn’t think about anyone else? Can’t figure it out. Hope you have a lovely birthday and a very nice trip. Spain! Wow. How can you go with just carry on luggage?

  8. Happy Birthday! I’m one that doesn’t really care if people remember mine or not. That said, it’s nice that my husband remembers, and asks me what I would like. I really am not a fan of him shopping to surprise me, as that seldom goes well. 🙂

  9. My parents have forgotten my birthday before. Bought my Brother a cake and forgot me on the message. Our birthday is the same day. My MiL only sent me one card, that was this year and it was when she was cleaning out a deceased member of the family that she found my birthday marked on a calendar. And BiL and SiL have never ever sent a card, we have been together 12 years. And I have never forgotten any of them or their childrens.

    I am extremely prompt and make a huge effort that cards are aimed and personal to that person.

    What also really ticks me off? People who dont get their children to write thank you cards. even an email or text would do. It seems to be a sign of the times.

    I like to think we are better wife material and therefore far superior and they dont want to compete…

    That is what I tell myself. Me bitter? Much? LOL
    Have a fantastic time away, lots of lovely sun and an excellent birthday.

  10. You are not unreasonable, this is a post I could have written myself! My birthday is tomorrow and no matter how many years go by it is always on a bank holiday weekend not sure how that works but it always seems to be on Saturday, Sunday or Monday! No one remembers because they’re busy with cricket or holidays or other fun summer stuff! Even my Dad has forgotton this year (not the first time either) – no doubt facebook will remind him tomorrow and he’ll phone. I don’t think it ever gets easier though.
    I hope you have a lovely day for your birthday, why not spoil yourself? That’s my solution this year, I wrote a birthday list, then went out and bought it all for myself!

  11. I must admit, that I have also been in trouble this week, with the same sister in law of yours, on your nephews birthday! I thought hubby was taking my kids to see him after work, and it was only when I got home from a completely stressful day at the office that I found out he hadn’t. I meant to call said nephew of your and don’t know what happened but I didn’t get around to it, so I have been in trouble. Whilst I agree like you I was bought up to sort birthdays out in time I don’t know what has happened as I am now a bit rubbish at it.

    Happy birthday to you! xx have a great time in Spain xx

    • Isn´t it funny but we all expect the “wife” “woman” to remember the birthdays for all the family but the “husband” “man” rarely!

  12. I completely understand where you are coming from on this… I feel much the same about birthday’s and Christmas and all the little things in between. I listen to things friends and family say they’d like, or a passing joke about a childhood toy and make a note and seek things out to give a slightly different gift that I’ve really thought about and receive nothing in return and whilst it’s not the lack of gift that bothers me it’s the lack of thought as I’m so easily pleased with even a small token that had the same thought as I would put in to it.

    Victoria x

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