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The Case for Celebrating Birthdays

by Alexandra Kuykendall

essentials

June 17, 2014

The Case for Celebrating Birthdays

There are some families who pace themselves for birthdays:  one year family party, one year friend party. I’m not of that variety.

My husband and I both come from lines of birthday celebrators. When friends tell me they didn’t have a birthday cake or a party until they were an adult, my jaw drops, because these celebrations are part of my family’s DNA. So we don’t alternate between family and friend parties. We do it all. Every year. Darling, we do birthdays big.

And by “big” I don’t mean expensive. I mean special.  We’re always on a budget so the amount of money spent has little to do with the “this is your day” message. It’s about the fanfare. In fact give me $25 at the dollar store and I’ll give you one slammin’ birthday party.

You see there is something about a birthday’s simplicity that I can get behind. It is saying we are celebrating “you”. That’s it. Not what you’ve accomplished or worked for or even tried for. We are simply celebrating that God created you and he did it in a special way.

When it comes to the fun of birthday parties, elaborate does not mean better. (It can mean more impressive, but not necessarily better for the little guest of honor.) And how I love all of the details! Give me a theme and ten minutes on Pinterest and I can go pure crazy. So I try to remember the essentials when it comes to birthday celebrating to keep the birthday girl or boy from being lost in the party shuffle. Here are the things I try to keep at the center of my birthday planning mind:

Keep it age appropriate

My two-year old wants balloons. That’s it. And if a few of them have Dora on them she’s insanely satisfied. My four-year old wants to be the center of attention with a few friends that sing her Happy Birthday. I can arrange for that. It is her day after all. (I’ve heard a trick of inviting only as many friends as the number of years the child is celebrating, I’m not so good at sticking to that but it sounds like a good idea). I don’t need to hire the magician if my child just wants to show her friends the slide in the backyard.

Simple food

A cake with candles is what makes a party feel like a birthday. That’s all anyone needs. I usually time my friend parties so no more food is required above cake and ice cream. If parents are staying, I try to have some snacks they’d like too. Remember, no one is going to judge you on the quality of the spread (and if they do, don’t invite them to the party, they don’t sound that fun.)

Break up the normal

If you are celebrating with family or a group of friends who gather often, do something different to mark that this is a special occasion. Games are a great way to do this (I don’t know about you, but I don’t normally organize a game during a playdate). Duck, duck, goose. Simon says. A relay race. All games that facilitate fun, require zero prep, and remind the guests this isn’t just any old family dinner.

Have a theme

Does your birthday boy love Batman? Your birthday girl love to dig in the dirt? Pick a theme your child knows is just for him or her and lots of details will flow out of it. From decorations to invitations your creative side can get a boost (this is where Pinterest can become dangerously addictive). I have to keep myself from going overboard here. Do enough that the guest of honor will feel like the focus, but not too much that it causes you stress in the planning.

Keep the guest of honor just that

A birthday party can take on a life of its own. The simpler the party details, the less likely your little one (or you) will get overwhelmed. You want to have enough energy and mental space to celebrate this gift of a person. So keep to the essentials and let the rest slide.

Going big on birthdays means singing loud, special hats and lots of friends (remember I have a hard time limiting there). Your child deserves to be celebrated for no other reason than he or she exists. Birthdays are a built into our calendars to ensure we are giving that message to our little ones at least once a year. You matter because God made you. Pretty simple. 

 


 

As a mom to four girls, ages 11, 8, 4 and 2, Alexandra Kuykendall is offered daily doses of the ludicrous and sublime. She is the author of this year’s MOPS International theme book, The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir and is the Mom and Leader Content Editor for the organization. This means she reads a lot and writes when she can. But don’t be fooled by long and fancy titles, most of Alex’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. You can connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.

 


 

 

 

Baby Giraffe wants to explore the jungle in Play-Doh Jungle Friends book! Ages 3 and up.

 

 

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?

Share your thoughts

Oh we did it mostly at dollar store for $50

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Tanya, the dollar store is a magical place. :)

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My 2 and 5 y/o have birthdays a week apart. This year we did a group mashup party. Ages 0-5. We had balls, balloons and bubbles circle theme mixed in with dress up dinosaur party. Kept it simple by just having at home bubbles, free play, balls, and lots and lots of balloons. Good to have one big thing and ours was balloons including balloon drop. Plus we saved money and headache by just combining both. We won't probably do this next year and keep variety going. Maybe separate next year, but definitely loved how we did it this year.

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Tanya, sometimes the best thing to celebrate is a success. ;)

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We go out to dinner enjoy each others company and yummy food.

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Nadia, there's nothing quite like a meal made by someone else.

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True home cooked meals are great too.

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We usually have a family dinner and a few gifts. Neither my husband or I grew up having big celebrations with tons of people, but always close family. We enjoy keeping our family close, especially since we have both sides of grandparents in the area and several aunts/uncles/cousins. As the girls get older, I'm sure we will start having friends over, but for now, keeping it simple with family is great!

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Shari, I grew up super close to my family (grandparents, aunts/uncles) and having those relationships has left such a deep mark. I'm grateful more kids have that opportunity!

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My mom and grandma owned a birthday party business; so needless to say, birthdays are big in my family too! I love your tips and like to THINK that I follow them already :)

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Tara, I love that it's in your blood. Let the generational partying continue!

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Mostly just keep it in the family. The birthday person gets to pick the meals for the day, including where to go out for dinner with just Mom and Dad.

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That's a great tradition. We often let the birthday girl choose the meal. A great way to make it feel special without spending anything extra (I guess unless someone requests lobster).

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I went all out for my kids' first birthdays. My daughters (first born) was big and lots of people came. As the baby of the family I had to do the same for my baby boy. His birthday unfortunately falls close to Christmas. I did a Dr. Suess theme that I got a lot of ideas for on Pinterest. It was fabulous. We waited and waited and no one showed up to celebrate him! I felt so sad for my poor baby so we changed plans and went out for chocolate chip pancakes...his favorite. The staff brought him an ice cream and all sang happy birthday to you (which is not typical for that restaurant) he was smiling and felt really special. I learned my lesson not to go too big. I think he would have never known the difference if we had stayed home but I felt bad and wanted to have special pictures for him to look back on. Reluctantly we had a 2nd birthday party and there were guests. My Mom always threw me the best birthday parties and they are great memories for me. I want to continue that tradition!

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Oh so sad! A birthday party and no guests, but it sounds like you stepped up Ashley as the mom and made the birthday boy feel special, the whole point!

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We go all out! Birthday parties are our way of getting family and friends together.

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Well put Jennifer. Friends and family and a special birthday guest of honor.

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We let the kids pick the theme and type of party they want. We will do sleepovers,bowling,out at a kids play area, etc. But we keep the focus on the birthday boy and make sure they know we are celebrating him!

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My older girls pick their themes too. So fun to have them be part of the planning. And they learn some organizational and budgeting skills too the more involved they get.

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My family was big on birthday parties. My husband NEVER had one. So now our little girl gets something in between- not unlike what she's described above. I think it works nicely. :)

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Kara, others have also mentioned the melding of the family traditions. A third way is a great way especially when you are forging it together.

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For the adults, cake and friends for a game night. For my girls? I tend to go a wee bit overboard! :-)

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Leah, as long as overboard is FUN for you AND your girls, awesome! It's part of your family.

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I love Birthdays! My daughter turns 3 this year and we are planning a cowgirl party! I love to see how cheaply I can do them for!

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Oh my mind is already swirling with ideas on the cowgirl theme. And for a 3-year old girl, oh my the possibilities. Have fun with the planning and the executing.

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We love to have everyone over, close friends and family and usually have food buffet style. There is a theme, but it's not super important. We just want our kids to have a fun day!

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It sounds like your party style matches your personality Michelle. True? A bit on the relaxed and social side? Perfect.

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I love to host big celebrations for my children's birthday. I am a themed kind of girl so everything, big and small, coordinates with the theme of the party. And I like to handout goodie bags as a thank you for everyone who comes.

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Deidra, you are my kind of girl. I love a good theme. We just did an American Girl party for my daughter who turned nine. I finally had to stop myself on the details. I was getting to the point where no one, I mean no one, else was going to notice them. My breaking point where I needed to ask who am I doing this for? And yes goodies bags or treats are a great way to tie in the theme. What's you favorite theme you've done?

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I am the DIY queen when it comes to invites and decor. I love setting a theme makingsure that the bday girl has fun and having GREAT food for the kiddos and Adults. Since we live so far from family I miss out on huge parties filled with family but so far so good :)

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Dekia, I want to come over! Your parties sound fun and it sounds like YOU aren't stressed about the details so you can enjoy the parties too. Party on!

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We are still trying to find a "tradition" for our families birthday celebrations. We've alternated between having friend parties and family parties, but I like the idea of just having one celebration each year. I like the idea of keeping things simple and about the birthday boy or girl (or mom or dad)! :) I grew up where my family celebrated for a week each time we had a birthday and my husbands family did MUCH simpler, so we are trying to find a balance.

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yes Dawn, the combining of family of origin traditions is a whole nother topic :). Especially difficult if you come from the "bigger" side of the celebrations. Thanks for bringing that part of the decision making grid up.

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We usually celebrate with family. Our girls are only 6 and 4, so we're just starting the friends parties. She doesn't know yet, but the oldest is having a friends party this year. And I'm intending on it being low key. This list was a great way for me to get a start on it.

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Denise- I'm glad you found the list helpful. It sounds like you have a good handle on not going overboard. Now to celebrate with friends too. How fun!

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My sons 5th Birthday is on Friday and like you I LOVE birthdays. Everyone gets to have a special day that celebrates them... and I LOVE that! A few years ago I got really wrapped up in the "Pinterest Parties"... everything had to be matchy-matchy and all themed so the pictures would look good. And I had to step back and ask myself, "who am I doing this for? My 3 year old who couldn't care less if there were centerpieces? Or myself trying to look like a super mom to my friends and the blogging world?" Reality check. Conviction. Shame. I decided from that moment on that I was NOT going to get sucked into the Mompetition anymore and that I was going to make my kids birthdays about celebrating them. We scaled back... big time. And we've never looked back. I realized that I only have to please my children, and they're pretty thrilled with just about anything!

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Thanks Nicole for sharing. All TRUE isn't it? I can totally get sucked in because I think it's fun. But then that fun can turn to stress if it's too much. A great question to use as the barometer, Who am I doing this for?

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