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Birthday fervor wears off over the years

For about two months it was all my wife and I heard about.

"I want rollerblades. No, I want ‘Lego Star Wars II.’ Wait, no, ‘Madden 07,’ I want a PSP; I want a party."

Our son’s ninth birthday was approaching and there was no way he was going to let us forget about it.

Not that we ever would. Not only for that reason, but also because kids’ birthdays are good leverage for parents. They are as effective at assuring compliance as taking away the Playstation or a strategically placed "we’ll see."

But all of a sudden, September 26 seems to come and go with a little less fanfare than it used to. Where I used to think we could get him to wear a dress to school if we threatened to take away his birthday, now I’m not so sure.

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At the ripe old age of nine, our son seems to have found out the truth about a secret that parents should protect like that of the existence of Santa and the Easter Bunny; the fact that the older you get, the less exciting birthdays become.

He began noticing this on the eve of his birthday, as he sat watching his beloved Twins. His birthday sleepover had happened the previous weekend, and he had had his cake then. The whole idea of a birthday celebration seemed rather anticlimactic.

He wasn’t awash in gifts, so there was little to look forward to, or so he thought. He looked at me and said, "I’m not as excited as I thought I’d be. Last year at this time I was psyched about my birthday."

I wasn’t sure what to say.

"Well, that’s what happens when we get older" didn’t seem like the appropriate thing to say to a nine-year-old, so I just told him that it wasn’t officially his birthday yet, and he’d be more excited in the morning, or so I thought.

After he went to bed and I to work, my wife was determined to elicit some birthday morning excitement out of him. She hung streamers, filled balloons and made a big poster that we and his sister (and the dog) all signed. She decorated his chair at the kitchen table with balloons to give it a throne feel. In the morning, we would all hail the birthday boy, but even then, the fact that it was his birthday failed to show on his face.

It finally did when I picked him up from school, because guess what? I had his new rollerblades in tow.

That’s when I finally saw a hint of the exuberance I had been looking for. Later, with some of the money he received from his grandparents, he bought baseball cards which yielded a Johan Santana card, and all was right with the world again.

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Let’s face it, for a nine-year-old the success of a birthday is measured in the quantity and quality of the presents he receives, period. He agreed.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that as he gets older still, the success of a birthday is going to be measured by the fact that he simply had another one.

I'd still like to see him in that dress though.

Jeff Reinartz is a lifelong Austin resident. His column appears Fridays. Send comments to news@postbulletin.com.

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