Should you include your child’s birthday as part of a Parenting Agreement or Custody Order in high conflict cases? My answer professionally and personally is always and forever will be NO!
Having watched my own children go through a divorce and get passed back and forth on holidays and special occasions, I was able to gain insight from them as they became older. They have shared with me that their birthdays were the only special occasions that had positive meaning and were not filled with bad memories, because it was the only day that was “for them” and was not about me and their dad. They remember many other holidays filled with fighting (mostly their dad) or crying (mostly me). There is something about holidays and special events that brings out the worst in narcissists. I think it is because they are no longer the center of attention.
For my children, their birthday(s) were the only day that we did share. Whoever had custody on that day, had custody of the children. Dad would usually throw a party the weekend before and I would throw a party the weekend after. The day off – was usually with family and the weekend parties were for friends. So, my kids ended up having three parties, lots of presents, attention and fun! It was the one time were there was no fighting and it created special memories for them not spoiled memories.
And don’t attend birthday parties together! If there is tension or a fight that is all that your child will remember. They won’t remember the cool Super Mario themed snacks and decor that you worked on tirelessly for weeks or the homemade cake that you put blood, sweat and tears into (because you don’t bake), or that their party was at some amazing jump house or play space – all they will remember was “you two.”
Finally, as your children get older, they may not want to visit with the other parent as much anymore and if you are having a hard time at exchanges during regular custodial periods, how much harder will it be to get them to go to the other parent’s house on their birthday?
Save yourself and your children and keep the “happy” in happy birthday by not including it in a legal document that you will be forced to comply with regardless of the circumstances.