We all have one and so do our kids, parents, friends, and other family members. Around here we have more than others or at least we celebrate more than others. However this is one topic I’ve failed to post a lot about… birthdays.
I recently read about the ‘new minimalist’ birthday trend called ‘Fivers’. I laughed a little as the article explained the trend and how it worked. Basically, according to the article I read, you have a birthday party and ask the guests not to buy a gift but they may give a card with $5.oo, if they like. This money can then be pooled for a larger gift of the child’s choosing, used for an ‘experience’, or saved for a later date.
Sounds great and I’m so happy to see so many people jumping on board with this idea. I just thought I’d share how we do birthdays here which is how we’ve done birthdays for awhile now. Now don’t get me wrong, there is NOTHING wrong with the way anybody celebrates birthdays but we do things a bit different than most.
When my older kids were younger we did do the traditional parties… cake, ice cream, and gifts. Sometimes I would have two parties instead of four as they had birthdays close together and sometimes we would just do one big party.
Most of our parties were just for family and a few very close friends and they were never very big. The biggest one we probably ever had was in NC. We held an ice cream party for all four of my older kids. That was so much fun! We had everyone help to make homemade ice cream and then we had a variety of toppings. There was plenty of other food too but everyone always remembered the ice cream and how good it was.
There have been many times were I would plan a semi-elaborate themed party like the Sock Hop party we did several years back. It was so much fun and the kids really enjoyed it.
Nowadays we keep things simple. One reason is because William (and Caitlyn at times) has a very difficult time with birthdays. We have tried a variety of ways to help him but he always seems to have a MAJOR meltdown when someone else celebrates a birthday or receives a gift. It has been a crazy ride these past nine years… wow, I really can’t believe it has been that long since they first came into my life!
After discussing this with his doctors and trying SEVERAL approaches (we had plenty of opportunities to experiment with ideas) we decided the best thing was just to quit having parties… which wouldn’t have really been fair to everyone else so we came up with a compromise. Now we have a simpler ‘Birthday Routine’.
When a child has a birthday we always have it marked on the calendar so there is plenty of time to prepare for it which is important for William. He likes to know what to expect and when to expect it. He DOES NOT like change and a birthday means that someone else will be getting a little extra attention that day (ex: calls from relatives, cards, etc.) and that is a CHANGE for him.
On the day of their birthday I usually try to let the birthday child pick out a special dinner and we will have some cakes, cupcakes, or other special dessert. We sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and blow out candles too. We don’t normally have anyone other than just our family but on occasion some of their older siblings may show up but normally William is OK with this as he knows what to expect on a birthday now.
Check out this post HERE for some of the fun cake ideas that we’ve come up with.
Each child will get $5.00 from me and $5.00 from Mr. Awesome. We also try to take each child out to eat for their birthday. We will go to whatever restaurant they choose which is usually somewhere like Dairy Queen or Steak N Shake. They really like to get a special treat like a milkshake or a hot fudge sundae too. After we eat we will go somewhere so that they can pick out a gift with their birthday money.
Our ‘Birth Date’ may not be on their actual birthday but we try to aim for the same week whenever possible.
This gives each child some special one on one time with me and gives them a chance to do things that they might not get to do when we are together as a group. They really look forward to our ‘Birth Date’ and they are planning out where they want to go months in advance. As they are getting older they also try to save up their money so they have more to spend when we go out.
Sometimes their older sisters or brothers will ask them what they want and they will get them something small that they have requested. They also get a small gift from grandparents and occasionally their dad brings them a small amount of money.
For the past few years this has been our ‘normal’ for birthdays and it has worked rather well. It might change in the future as the ‘social side’ of me has been dying to have a HUGE party… maybe I’ll just put that energy towards our first Polar Express Party in the cabin later this year?
This approach to birthdays may not work for every family but it does work for us. It is also a great way to help manage clutter around the house. We don’t get a lot of toys so the ones they do get are usually ones they have chosen and they enjoy them a lot more. We also don’t have any more birthday MELTDOWNS!
At one point when we first brought the middle three kiddos to our home we tried to make everything extra special. Maybe we were trying to ‘make up’ for things they never had or things they had never experienced. In the long run we have learned that, even without the traditional parties, we have given them so much more.
Now they know what to expect, when to expect it, and they are prepared for it. They also know that they are loved and that they are each special in their own way. With the routines that we have created and continue to improve we are helping them have the sense of security and safety that they never had before.
It’s all about creating memories that they will look back on and cherish. Even though we don’t celebrate in the ‘traditional way’ we do make sure each one of them feels loved and gets a little extra special attention on their special day.