Like many teenagers, I’d like some good stuff for my birthday. Things like a new video game console or clothes. Maybe a party with my friends and my favorite dinner (pizza of course!).
If you ask me, these are the things I’ll say I want. But there are other things I want and need. Chances are I won’t tell you about these things. I might not be able to say them out loud or even put them into words. But, they are real. And, your awareness of them helps me.
My birthday can be a real trigger for me: I hope you’ll understand that I’ll be thinking of my birth family and wondering if they’re missing me. Do my siblings even know it’s my birthday?
You can make the day better for me by wondering if I’m thinking about my birth family. Ask me how I have celebrated my birthday in the past. Even if my past birthdays have been difficult, they’re still part of me. When you’re interested in my life before I came to you, it helps me feel like a whole person with a unique history.
I’d like you to include some of my traditions: Ask me if there are special ways that my family celebrated my birthday. Maybe you could make the kind of cake we always had on birthdays. If my birthday was a time when I got to see my grandparents, perhaps you could include them in our celebration or help set up a visit with them. Including members of my birth family would be great. If you ask me, I’ll have some ideas.
If I have sad memories of my birthday just hear me out: Your willingness to listen really helps, especially your willingness to listen without judging the adults who didn’t make my other birthdays special. I know it’s hard for you to hear this stuff sometimes and not be able to make it better. But your ability to just listen helps me heal. It’s really a gift to me.
I’d like to make some new memories on my birthday: Please take pictures. Make a video of my celebration and ask everyone to make a birthday wish for me. Make a keepsake box with mementos of the day so that I’ll always be able to remember this day as a member of this family. That’s a gift that would be really special.
Written by Diane Kindler