Birthdays are a big deal. While they get less important as we get older, particularly the random ones between the decades, teenagers are not yet into that no-mans land of unimportant birthdays. These teen birthdays, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, all have particular nuances to them, and should be honored for that.

  • 13 is the entrance into teenage-hood, which is often a long-sought-after place for preteens.
  • 14 means you’re not a teenage “freshman” any more, even though you’re often still a freshman in high school.
  • 15 is so close to driving and freedom that it’s almost a penultimate birthday.
  • 16 is often the entrance into the best years in terms of lack of real responsibility coupled with the most possible freedom.
  • 17 and suddenly you’re beginning to taste adulthood – and are probably preparing for life post-high school.
  • 18 carries much legal weight in America – as has been pointed out by millions of newly-18-year-olds – now they can buy porn, cigarettes, vote, and die for their country. (But not drink alcohol. Because that would just be wrong.)
  • 19 and suddenly birthdays don’t matter as much. At least they didn’t to me. This was the age when I forgot how old I was for the first time – when I really stopped caring how old I was for the first time. Honestly, it came as something of a relief.

So honor your teenagers’ birthdays. And realize that they will want you to increasingly honor them by not taking part in them. And that’s okay. Although I’ve never known a teenager – hell, anyone of any age – to be miffed by an appropriately-timed, non-embarrassing cupcake.

(Today is my daughter’s seventh birthday! Happy Birthday, Goose! Because she’s still firmly in the years of loving birthday-cake-focused-parties, we’ll be tie-dying and eating cake with friends and family tomorrow.)