Children’s Birthday Celebrations

I recently read how a family celebrated their child’s birthday.  They did the same thing a lot of people do, a party, with friends decorating cupcakes.  They usually do bigger parties but since they had just had a baby they kept it small and rather unorganized.  Their daughter received several gifts including money.  She has free use of the money to do with as she pleases.  The mother pointed out that with online shopping the possibilities were limitless.

This is the ideal, the anticipation of every child and expectation of every parent.

Birthday Girl - This seems to be the ideal

The parents hoping to give their child the best birthday ever and the child expecting and dreaming of a day filled with adoration, play, fun, gifts, heavenly bliss.  If anything less than this materializes the child usually feels they were shafted and bitter tears often follow.

Jeremy and I decided, after experiencing childhoods full of disappointing birthdays, we didn’t want our children to experience the same expectations, and then the same let down that is inevitable to follow.   I remember having a sleep over birthday party as a young child.  Even though I had all my friends there and we were having a great time I still found my way to my bed room crying.

I didn’t want to be worshiped nor ignored, just appreciated and not once a year. It never made much sense, the Western idea of the birthday celebration.  We are definitely considered odd for not having regular birthday parties.  I think people feel we are not letting our children have one of the rights of childhood- a birthday party.  But, our children do get to choose what we have for breakfast (not that they don’t get to do that regularly) they get to pick what we have for dinner (again a rather regular occurrence anyway) they get to pick out a cake at the store and we usually let them watch what they want to on TV (not a regular occurrence).  We have a running tradition to open any gifts they get from grandparents in the mail the day they get them so gifts are usually opened before their birthday. The other running tradition we have is I tell them the story of the day they were born, everything I can remember about that day, and how they were as a baby.

I do have to admit that occasionally we’ve run into problems because they’ve been to friend’s birthday parties and they want what they see their friends getting. When the children have asked why we don’t do birthday parties we’ve usually had a conversation that went something like this, “How do you act when you have a lot of friends over?  How do you behave when you expect people to treat you one way and then they disappoint you? What do you expect on your birthday?  Do we want you to expect lots of presents and unusual praise?”

But, as we’ve explained to them many times we don’t want them to have expectations for this one day a year that go unmet.  We don’t want them to expect everyone to treat them differently on this one day, we don’t want them to think they deserve gifts or should be treated differently.  We do nice things for them every day, we show them they are special every day.  They still deal with all of the joys and sorrows, but in a real, feet on the ground way that makes sense. They know how much they mean to us because we tell them and explain the concept of family and eternity ad nausea .  They hear about families and unique gifts and how the family has a whole package of the gifts it needs so long as everyone consecrates theirs to the whole. All are necessary, even essential to the fulfillment of the families mission. They know their gifts, their promise, their part, their purpose, and they know and expect the same from us and every other member of the family. But the circus never comes to town and the good times do stick around…

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