I counted them recently. Between all four of my children, I have celebrated 58 birthdays. How have I celebrated them?
The first four birthdays of each of my two oldest children were the most painful. Not for them, for me. The expectations and the overall difficulty of planning the event overwhelmed me.
My mom had three simple requirements. These would come back to haunt me years later so, please, take heed. I do hate it when she is right. I hate it when anyone is right. Ask my husband.
Here are the three keys necessary for a fabulous birthday, according to Betty-Ann (my momma, who happens to be right… No gloating aloud, Mom):
1. A cake: The child gets to pick the cake. Period. Try not to be offended if it’s from Publix. They love frosting more than we do.
2. A card or present to open: Opening something that someone else took the time to wrap or close seems to seal the deal as the “authentic birthday” acknowledgement.
3. A song: The traditional “Happy Birthday” works best. I once had an entire staff of a Chinese restaurant sing an amazing version that still sends my mother and me into a massive giggle fit. But they sang it — loud and proud — even for a stranger.
How do these translate into our present society of over-the-top, displays of parental prowess in which I have been witness to and planned myself?
Bounce house anyone?
Enough food to feed more than all the homeless people within a 100-mile radius?
Or my personal favorite, homemade “Handy Dandy Notebooks” from Blues Clues that have been personalized for all 20 kids arriving at the house for a two-year-old’s party? (Take note: my Paul doesn’t remember these at all. He’s 17.)
All three requirements have been accomplished over the years. Even for the nameless 13-year-old in my life who decided they “hated me” that year when I asked what they would like to do to celebrate their birthday. We still had a cake, a card and a song. And they were going to like it. And smile. Gosh darnit.
Birthdays are just that: celebrations of one’s birth. If we can stick to that as moms, we will all get so much more peace about this issue of our child’s life.
A few things have helped cure the “perfection infection” (from Jill Savage’s, No More Perfect Moms) when it comes to birthdays in my home:
1. I have stopped having yearly birthday parties. Every third year or so the child can have a “big” party. Otherwise, a cake, a present and a song with our crazy family suffices. Just being able to call the shots for what dinner is served and the flavor of the cake makes any child feel “birthdayed” around here.
2. If they want a “big” party, they should contribute to the hoopla. Then, they discover the great realization that parties are really an opportunity to show a spirit of hospitality for the guests coming to your home. Otherwise, the party needs another locale.
3. Two is fun. Three’s a crowd. When it comes to doing something special with friends on your birthday. This is a rule. Competing for attention is no fun. When they choose a special activity to do with one person of their choosing, fun is easy. Keeping two friends happy at the same time, is well, like keeping two kids happy at the same time. Capisce?
How “big” have birthdays become in your house?
What have been your favorite birthday memories with your kids?
Ask your kids about their favorite birthday celebration. You may get a big surprise!