Why half birthdays matter now more than ever

By Amy Litzenblatt

This summer I discovered that half birthdays are magical. You read that correctly. Half birthdays.

In August, my daughter turned six-and-a-half. And that day, her half birthday, was the happiest I had seen her in months.

Like most kids, her life was turned upside down in mid-March when her school closed its doors due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing, distance learning, and being confined to our home for months were all taking a toll on her emotionally. And the summer was more of the same. All summer activities including play dates were cancelled. There was hardly anything tangible to look forward to.

But the moment we added that special date to our family’s calendar, we noticed a positive change to her mood and behavior that was instantaneous.

Suddenly, there was excitement in her eyes and joy in her heart as she counted down the days (and at times, the minutes) until the big day when she turned six and a half.

She had decorations to make, menus to plan, and invitations to design (even if they were just for me, my husband, and her sister). She needed to pick out just the right outfit and decide what songs she wanted to dance to. There was so much to do. And she was happy.

For the weeks leading up to her half birthday, that joy spilled over to our entire family and was a late summer boost we all needed during a time filled with uncertainty and when it is so difficult to celebrate any occasion.

If you don’t have an upcoming birthday in your family, you most likely have an upcoming half birthday to celebrate. Here are a few reasons why planning a half birthday can help your family get through this challenging time:

It’s an actual date to put on the calendar. Now more than ever we need things to look forward to. Just add six months to any birthday to figure out the date of a half birthday. For example, if your child’s birthday is on February 22, his or her half birthday is on August 22. Or use this half birthday calculator.

You don’t need to motivate kids or convince them it will be fun. They already get it. They live for their birthdays. Just say “half birthday” and they’re in!

It’s an activity that will keep kids occupied for more than five minutes. In fact, you can stretch the planning out for weeks. Kids love planning parties. So, if you’ve been trying to come up with art projects, the possibilities are endless. Decorations, games, guest lists, themes, playlists, baking, meal planning.

It can temporarily stop siblings from fighting. The number of daily squabbles in my house has increased exponentially with the number of months we’ve been staying nearly full time at home. Planning a half birthday party was something that they were able to do together, in the same room, without screaming. They made lists, divided up jobs, worked independently and together. They weren’t exactly quiet—but they weren’t arguing.

The cake tastes better. When the big day finally arrived, the four of us sang “Happy Half Birthday” and indulged in a cake that somehow tasted better than most birthday cakes. Maybe it was because it was completely covered in rainbow sprinkles and sweet sparkly flowers, per the special request of the birthday girl. But I think it was because it was the first time in a long time we all sat together and sang and laughed and forgot for the moment what was happening in the world around us.

Whether you choose to invite guests virtually, or just keep it simple, it will be a day to look forward to, a day to celebrate, a day that will be a departure from a typical day in this very atypical time.

Amy Litzenblatt is a writer and editor of fiction and nonfiction. A certified special education teacher, she has also worked in publishing and lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters — who look for any excuse to bake a cake during this pandemic.

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