Not Always a Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to YOU

Happy Birthday to YOU

Happy Birthday Dear (Insert your name)

Happy Birthday to YOU!

Now make a wish and blow out the candles!


This is normally a joyous song! Family and friends get together and honor the birthday recipient.

For J, it is anything but joyous! Don’t get me wrong-he likes the song and can sing it. What he hates is to hear a group of people singing it.

A couple of years ago, we were at my Great Uncle’s 95th party. While everyone was singing and celebrating, J was screaming and crying. This was before I even knew of Sensory Processing.

This happens anytime a group sings Happy Birthday. Or when a group of people cheers their glasses. Or if too many people say YAY! It’s all too overwhelming for J.

Recently, it was my daughter’s 1st birthday. We had a lot of people at the house and although he wasn’t upset, J was definitely extra hyper. I think he was trying to process so many people in his house all at once. Before we were going to sing Happy Birthday and even though I would’ve loved to have him there, I told him what was about to happen and gave him the option to not be in the room if he wasn’t comfortable. He took grandpa downstairs to the playroom and we sang to his sister.

At the end of the song, J came back upstairs crying. While downstairs, he had gone into his playhouse, closed the door and the windows as if to hide out. My dad told me that by the end of the song he was crying. Once I got him calm, he said he wanted to blow out candles too. So I relit one for him, told him to make a wish and he blew out his own candle. Within a few minutes he was back to the party.

Situations like this isn’t just a 3 year old having a tantrum. And if this was the only thing he did that didn’t seem right, I might not think anything of it. But when you combine it with other triggers we’ve noticed, it’s hard to dispute that Sensory Processing seems to be the culprit.



2 thoughts on “Not Always a Happy Birthday

  1. As you know, and as anyone in our family will tell you, I did the exact same thing until I was at least 6 or 7 I think. It wasn’t just when everyone sang happy birthday to me — it was when they sang it to anyone! I have home movies of me running out of the room screaming and crying at everyone’s birthday parties. Everyone still ‘teases’ me about it and I’m still somewhat embarrassed whenever anyone mentions it. I didn’t like all the attention on me when it was my own birthday but something about that song just upset me no matter whose birthday it was. I wish I could remember more about why I felt that way but I just remember being angry that people would still try and sing it knowing how much it bothered me – especially on my birthday.


    1. Aw, yeah – it’s a hard thing to understand even for you looking back. I think for him, he’s overwhelmed by it. So many people singing at once, louder than normal, it’s hard to him to process it. But he will sing it on his own, but can’t be around it/doesn’t like being around it if it’s being sung to others. Certain things trigger him and that’s definitely one for him. Definitely don’t be embarrassed by it! You felt that way for a reason, whatever it may have been.


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