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.)

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.