One of the birthday constants in my family growing up was Dad writing a poem – usually rhyming couplets, but sometimes a haiku – in each birthday card. I wish I had kept more of them.
You can tell families apart by how they celebrate birthdays. What’s important in your household? Must there be presents? Is there always cake, or is there another key food treat? Do you write cards, and if so, what do they say?
The private world of family birthdays is one thing – there, we find plenty of variety and different flavours of celebration. But when it comes to the public celebration of children’s birthdays, there’s much more pressure, it seems, to conform to some key social standards about how a party should be run. Parents of older children speak of real anxiety about this stuff.
How do you hold competitive games for a generation of kids used to receiving accolades for participation? How can you distribute a respectable party bag that isn’t full of landfill-fodder? And speaking of junk, what on earth do you do about food, with allergies so common and household diets so much more divergent than when we grew up?
SBJ has suddenly dived into the world of children’s birthday parties, with four in two weeks recently. The three I’ve been to this year were delightful affairs – what nice events to be part of! The parent-hosts were impressively thoughtful and creative in how they chose to do things.
That thoughtfulness and creativity is hard work, though, in the world of birthday parties. How do you approach the tricky questions to do with social conformity, consumerism, expense, generosity, gratitude, social skills, introverts and extraverts, healthy living, and more? Nightmare!
I don’t know about you (well, I do, a bit, actually) but I have enough anxiety and pressure in my life as it is, and I’m determined that celebrating the existence of my beautiful boy won’t be another source of stress. How ridiculous would that be? So I want us to crowdsource the important questions and wise answers to this stuff together, please.
What do you want for your children? What’s the point of all the hoopla for your family? What pressures have you felt from other families? What have you agonised over or worried about? What have you seen or been part of and thought ‘never again!’?
Please give your answers, advice and tips, too. Feel free to link to resources you have found helpful or tell us stories of what has worked well for you or in families you know.
If I were planning a birthday party right now for SBJ – let’s say for his sixth birthday, as far away as that is – I have a long list of things I would want to talk over with you guys, or some ways I would want to challenge the norm. I’m going to hold my list for a second post, and add to it whatever you suggest today.
What do we need to consider and do differently to redeem the (potential) madness of birthday party culture?
PS: Have you spotted the new Sacraparental Facebook page? It’s full of extra links, thoughts and resources, as well as alerts when there’s a new post here. Check it out and invite your mates if you like what you see.