Unless you don’t celebrate birthdays for religious reasons, it’s safe to say that most parents love the opportunity to make a fuss of their child on their birthday. It’s the one day all year that is solely about them. We delight in watching their little face light up when presented with carefully wrapped gifts and a cake make especially for them. So, when one woman took to Reddit recently to share an experience she had recently with her brother, his wife and their niece, people were genuinely shocked and horrified at her in-laws parenting choices. The couple, in their 30’s had decided not to celebrate or even acknowledge their 6 year old daughters birthdays for fear of making her spoiled.
This issue is very controversial in my family right now and I wanted to get some outside opinions, so buckle up!
My (24F) older brother (30M) and SIL (31F) have a daughter together (6F). They have a very unconventional style of parenting IMO, as they don’t believe in celebrating birthdays or birthday gifts. This was my SILs idea and she believes that acknowledging/celebrating your kids birthday’s makes them spoiled and makes them believe that they day is all about them.
Weird, but hey her kid her rules I guess. This is kind of controversial in my family because we are big on celebrating holiday’s and birthday’s and love giving each other gifts, but we respect their wishes and don’t celebrate or acknowledge my brother, SIL or sadly my niece’s birthday.
Now my niece and I are pretty close as I’m her favorite aunty and at first the whole birthday thing wasn’t an issue, because my niece was still too young to understand. But now that she’s 6 she understands the concept of a birthday and I guess is confused why she “doesn’t have one”. My SIL went as far as to talk to my niece’s teacher, explain her style of parenting, and the teacher now doesn’t acknowledge my niece’s birthday because my SIL will have a fit and complain to the school board if she does.
Last weekend was my fiancé’s birthday, and on Sunday my family and his family gathered at our house to have a small birthday dinner for him and a cake. When it was time for the cake and to blow out the candles my niece asked my fiancé if she can try? He said sure, if it’s okay with your mom and dad. My SIL looked hesitant but said yes. So my niece helped my fiancé blow out his candles and made a wish with him. As a joke my fiancé asked her what she wished for and she said “cake on my birthday”.
Now her birthday happened to be this past Thursday. So yesterday (Sunday) we asked my brother and SIL if we can take my niece out for dinner? My SIL said yes.
Long story short at the end of dinner we got our server to bring out a cupcake for my niece with a candle in it so she can blow out. No one sung happy birthday or anything like that (even though I think it’s ridiculous). I then gave my niece a little gift bag with a heart shaped necklace inside, and told her it was a little treat for her.
She obviously LOVED it and her cupcake.
Well fast forward SIL and brother caught wind of this from my niece and are super pissed of at my fiancé and I. They said we aren’t respecting their parenting style and that my niece it not allowed to be around us alone anymore.
I told my SIL that my niece is going to suffer because of her weird thing she has against birthday’s and gifts. I also explained to her that no one acknowledged the birthday at the dinner. They think I’m a huge AH, the rest of my family think SIL is weird but I shouldn’t have done that. AITA here?
Usually, we subscribe to the ‘your child, your rules’ school of thought, but in this instance, we can’t help feeling that the parents could be doing some irreparable damage to their little girls self esteem and sense of worth. Commenters too, were quick to point out the harm that the couple could unwittingly be inflicting on their child, and encouraged the auntie to continue giving the child gifts throughout the year.
Parenting style? You can’t just do something incredibly socially unacceptable and/or cruel and call it a parenting style. “I put horseradish on all of my kids food because that’s my parenting style.”
The 6 YO is already seeing that other people get birthdays and even wished for a cake on her birthdays. that poor child.
Give her presents “Just because” throughout the year. “I saw this and thought of you.” Be that generous person in her life. – KronkLaSworda
My heart may have actually shattered when I read that the poor baby wished for CAKE. On her birthday! How cruel OPs brother and SIL are.
Please don’t ever turn your back on your niece or any future children the Wicked Assholes of the West may produce OP. They will need to know that there are normal, sane people in the world who care for them.
And I agree with every single person here who says to get her gifts for any other reason. – BloodWynne65
Since almost everyone else does get to celebrate their birthday, instead of teaching the kid, “Everyone gets one day a year that they get to feel a little special,” they are teaching her, “Everyone gets one day a year that they get to feel a little special. Except for you. You’re not special.”n – nervelli
This is the type of insanity that scars your child for life, makes them resent you, have self-image issues, and causes your own family to go behind you back so the child can experience joy. NTA OP, and I’d keep doing it too.
My BIL’s family has never acknowledged his birthday. It’s not that they don’t believe in them, they just… don’t care? As in his mom, dad, or sister don’t so much as send him a text message on his birthday. So fast forward to when he marries into our family in his late-40s. We get the family together and have a BBQ. Someone makes him a cake (from a box). We get him a few small gifts—like a shirt from TJ Maxx. Nothing fancy at all. He cries. And says it’s the first time he’s ever felt like anyone cared to celebrate him. 😢 – Spirited_Machine_711
NTA. You showed her that her dreams can be shared and can come true. You showed her you love her and that she is special. Your niece sees others celebrating their birthdays. The teachers at school will now celebrate everyone but her. Your SIL is misguided and planting some serious self esteem issues. Birthdays don’t have to be getting “spoils”. Birthdays are about caring for yourself in the midst of a world and a million things that will never put you first. It’s about celebrating you being in this world and others saying that we are happy that you are in our world. Her Mom is teaching her that she is sad that she is in this world, and not worth celebrating. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Her Mom is really effing this one up. It’s very sad to hear. – Impossible_List746
What would you do in this situation? Should OP back off and stay in her own lane or should she continue to covertly gift her little niece things?