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Birthdays done differently

Birthdays done differently


They’re such a pain.

I mean, they’re important to kids, and I really do want to recognize the milestones that my children achieve year after year.

But the expectations that our culture sets for kids’ birthday parties are crazy. My children go to birthday parties for their school friends that include expensive activities, live entertainment, lavish lootbags, and presents for guests. There are sometimes dozens of kids invited.

The problem, of course, is that this just escalates. If one kid gets something, the next kid has to have something bigger, and then there’s a parental arms race to throw the biggest and craziest birthday bash.  Soon everyone expects that birthdays need to be this way.

As I’ve written the past, however, our family tries to celebrate birthdays in ways that are meaningful rather than commercial. On odd years, the kids get a small party where they can invite some friends to play soccer or something. We ask that there be no presents, and we don’t do loot bags or expensive activities.

On even years, like this one, the kids get to pick a favourite restaurant, and we go out for dinner just as a family, without any friends at all. We remember the big events of the past year and we make a toast for the coming year.

Every year, I do a sleepout with the birthday kid, watch movies and eat crap food. We talk about what happened over the past year and what might happen in the year to come.

We just celebrated birthdays for two of my kids, and they enjoyed their birthday festivities, but it isn’t always easy to explain to their friends why they don’t have big parties. Their expectations are too different. Every year we end up talking about why we do things differently, why we don’t measure celebration in dollars and presents.

It’s an annual pain, but hopefully it’s also an annual reminder to them that it’s okay to do and value things differently than their culture expects.