You Had a Birthday, Shout Hooray!

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First, if you get the reference in the title today, you might be a Mormon. (Do other denominations sing that little birthday ditty? I have no idea.)

My son is going to turn 11 in just a few days. We do birthdays understated here. For my husband, it’s a step up because he was raised in a family that didn’t even always acknowledge birthdays. He has several siblings with birthdays close to him, and he was an ADULT before he ever had his own birthday cake. (In a fit of cosmic irony, him and I have birthdays a day apart. Ha ha ha!) In my family, they were celebrated faithfully, but we didn’t do anything big. When my oldest son turned 3 (18 years ago if you want to do the math) I did a “big” birthday party for him. You know, where I had a snack spread and goodie bags (I think?) and invited all his friends (aka about a dozen cousins) to help us celebrate. I don’t remember consciously deciding to never do it again at that point, but, um, I never have. Yes, you read that right. I have never again thrown a party for any of my other kids.

I can just hear the shocked gasps. My kids don’t get parties??! No bounce houses or party bags? No pile of dollar store gifts from their friends? Yea, no. I think at some point after that first trial run, I realized that doing that forever for multiple kids wasn’t sustainable, and I voted no. My kids enjoy going to other people’s birthday parties. (In fact, I think my youngest son was supposed to go to his friends’ yesterday, but I didn’t get home until late, I didn’t have all the info, and my day had already devolved beyond recognition. So sorry he missed it!) Honestly, I don’t think it even occurs to my kids to care one way or another. We always have cake and ice cream and a few modest gifts with our immediate family. If they happen to have a friend playing over that day, I’ll let them stay for dinner and cake. But, I don’t want to track down people to give invitations to or make a presentable cake (I suck at this. For real. A Kindergartner could decorate a cake better than me.) or spend a lot of money. I know this is incredibly #notpinterestworthy , but we’re seriously all so much happier without the stress.

Actually, it’s not entirely true to say that none of my kids has ever had a friend party – just that I haven’t planned or thrown it. My oldest daughters are 19 and 17, and they started planning their own parties when they were in their early teens. This works fantastic for me. They got to have everything how and when they wanted, and all I had to do was pay for a few snacks and provide a few rides. We were all happy with this arrangement.

Lest you think that I’m just too lazy to do cool things for my kids, I’ve sewn for, oh, 20 years? I taught myself when my oldest was a baby. There was a good ten years when I had 1-4 kids that I sewed every. single. item of clothing that we all wore, down to our undies. They had completely custom wardrobes – think things that go for $50- an outfit in Etsy shops today. I have also homeschooled my kids since, well, my oldest was 3. I’m with them all the time. So, I certainly do things for my kids, it’s just not extravagant birthday parties. (Why I feel like I have to put in this disclaimer… Because we moms judge each other? :/ )

I’m a people watcher, I guess you could say. One thing I’ve noticed is that kids almost always take their cue from the adults around them. Children that have helicopter parents tend to experience more fear, in my experience. Parents that have guilt about some specific lack tend to have kids that feel deprived about it. The truth is that my kids aren’t any more scarred by the lack of parties than yours are by being forced to wear clothes from Walmart and Target. I think kids find what’s normal to them, well, normal. And, there’s no need to feel mom guilt if your normal is different than your neighbors. Trust me, you don’t want to be subjected to my pathetic lack of finesse at birthdays anyway.

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