Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I am liking the way we celebrate birthdays around here. There's been a bit of celebratory evolution, you might say.

As babies and toddlers, birthdays were a family affair. In hindsight, I can see the undercurrent of "This is so cute! They're going to love their 'real' birthday parties when they're older!"

As preschoolers, they had their share of birthday party invitations. We ran the gamut of the birthday party circuit. The kids (and I, because I'm one of those overprotective mothers) attended traditional parties at someone's home. Cake, presents, pinata, games, loot bag and off-ya-go. Some of them got a little swanky, but we were running with the professionals/family money crowd, so that was to be expected. There was a golfing party, the all day private pool party, the catered party.

Then we threw Kori a 5th birthday party as her friends had had. Pool party, junk food, balloons, cake, presents, loot bag and $300 later, off-ya-go. That's no including our 'family celebration', that's just her party. When Raiden's 5th birthday rolled around, you guessed it: pool party, balloons, junk food, presents, loot bag and a mere $250 late, off-ya-go.

And do you know what? Not one of those guests - from either party - do we socialize with today. Craziness. Why do we do that? Spend all that money for crappy food and to be rushed through the requisite activities so that everyone can go home with a bag full of stuff they don't need or want?

Not only did the birthday party have to happen, but there was the family birthday at home. This normally consisted of presents, a cake and the birthday dinner. Then we needed to accommodate the extended family. This meant dinner, cake and presents at my parents, or we hosted the guests and served dessert while they brought presents.

Did I mention that Kori's birthday is at Christmastime? I won't even get into the stress of that schedule. Well, maybe another time. It's got to be amusing from someone's viewpoint.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that all this was silliness and fluff. We were focusing on the event rather than the child. A birthday is supposed to be about the person celebrating. It's about reflecting on your achievements, your growth, contemplating your direction. Not only that, but the amount of money we were spending was criminal! Brian was key in helping me discover this epiphany.

Birthdays at our house are more enjoyable for our family now. We get a lot more out of a birthday than we used to. First, Brian takes the day off and declares a Family Day. After a few gifts first thing in the morning (a very important aspect of the A* Family Birthday Tradition) and a leisurely morning getting ready for our day, we head off to an activity chosen by the birthday person. We've done a fancy dinner at a restaurant, bowling and lunch, and mini-golf. We come and go as we please during the day, deferring to the Birthday-Person. We fit in a trip to pick up the birthday cake - always a popular outing. In the evening, we may have a couple of people in to share cake with us, but not always. It's nice. Low-key, low-stress. Plenty of time to enjoy a couple of gifts (usually something to read, something to wear and something wanted). No getting hyped up or over-excited or sick on junk. Just family time.

Extended family celebrations are also kept low key. My mom likes to have a Sunday dinner type of thing for my kids' birthdays. It's no different than any other weekend dinner we might attend with them with the exception of an organic spice cake - no icing unless I bring it.

I imagine as the kids get older, there will be some wanting to celebrate with friends. But, maybe not, who knows. For now, this is what works for us. The kids love their birthdays and that's the whole point.

And, without further ado, some pics from Rai's birthday on the 8th...


oom said...

Thanks for sharing! OMG...he is getting so grown up!

Our kids sort of evolved us into the 'parties' you described. At one point, they wanted the all-get-out-everyone-they-know invited sort of birthdays....but pretty quickly decided the low-stress, take-it-slow day is the better way to go (thank goodness!! 4 kids, 4 birthday parties? ACK $$$$!). I truly believe the memories of those quiet, family/closest friend dinners and be able to choose one special activity birthdays are much better than those where they have a huge deal and McDonalds with 20 of their buddies. Especially when they can't remember what it was they did yesterday, much less who (and what) was at their BIG party a year ago.

Best wishes to your son!

jugglingpaynes said...

Don't think being party entertainers helped us stem the cash flow. We've put out our share of party money. We've also tried celebrating all 3 together since they are all in May, but that never seems to work. I've resigned myself to calling May our little Christmas, and I just work them extra hard to get as much work as possible done before birthday madness.
I meant to tell you how much I loved your last entry. For some reason I'm so busy lately I seem to have enough time to look at a friend's blog, then run out the door. Or draw comics. Or write quarterly reports. Anyway, keep putting new additions in your sidebar. You lead me to so many neat things!
Peace and Laughter,

jugglingpaynes said...

And a belated Happy Birthday Raiden!