Four rounds of “Happy birthday,” not counting extended family and friends, gets to be a lot. And as we know, kid birthday parties are no longer cake, balloons, and pin the tail on the donkey. At minimum, there’s got to be a professionally decorated cake illustrating the birthday kid’s most current hobby, an amazing, life-changing experience for the gaggle of guests, a mountain of gifts, or for the more socially conscious, an admirable suggestion to donate the money that would’ve been spent on Barbies and Mario to a child-focused non-profit, and a professional photographer to document it all for posterity. Or at least for Facebook. Happy birthday, kid.
So… it was too much for me. I’ll admit, I had to tap out of the birthday hoohah. I was at a kid birthday party awhile ago and realized that with all the going’s on, the guests and the kid-host barely even interacted. My children have received birthday invites from kids in their extra-curricular activities that they could barely pick out of a little kid line-up. And, then, I was stressing myself out buying a gift for a kid I didn’t even know. I decided to scale back.
We didn’t do birthday parties last year. As the big day approached, each kid picked out something they wanted to do – whether it was have a few (a few!) friends over for pizza and cake or try out rock-climbing with the family – and that’s what we did. This year, my daughter suggested a countdown, like the Advent activities leading up to Christmas. Why couldn’t we do that she asked? And a new birthday activity was born.
Each week before my kids’ birthdays, I’ve filled eight decorated bags with small gifts and each day, let them pick one to open. The gifts have included all kinds of things the kids would like, varying in price and “wow” - a pack of sidewalk chalk, a bottle of nail polish, a box of Legos, a basketball design inkpen, phone case, a watch. The gifts have come from me and my husband, as well as from their siblings. Half the excited is the surprise of finding out what’s in the bag. And you know what? Unlike when they’ve got a mountain of gifts in front of them to open in front of all of their friends, in a frenzy to open the next gift, they get time to select their gift bag, open it and enjoy what’s inside.
On their actual birthday, there is one more gift, and of course, a cake (what’s a birthday without cake.) It’s been a fun way to extend the birthday excitement, without making it over the top, uncontrollable. For a week, the birthday kid is the center of attention and celebration. Happy birthday!
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