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-   -   How big a deal do you make of your kids' birthdays? (http://www.mothering.com/forum/35-parenting/1384698-how-big-deal-do-you-make-your-kids-birthdays.html)

mamazee 06-06-2013 02:33 PM

I was reading some blog posts (awesome ones!) and found this one about birthdays:

http://www.mothering.com/community/a/why-birthdays-matter?utm_source=featured&utm_medium=homepage+body&utm_content=logged+in&utm_campaign=featured+content

I do make a pretty big deal about my kids' birthdays on that day. We try to make the day feel really special.

I know people who don't make a big fuss on their kids' birthdays because they (as they've told me) feel like it can lead to a sense of entitlement. OK it was only one family but anyway it's one way to look at it. (I am concerned about entitlement, but I don't think big birthday celebrations cause that. I guess depending on how you do it, it could create a great deal of waste. I'd be more worried about that I think.)

I also know people who go way beyond what I do and do a whole big birthday week! I even know adults who do birthday weeks.

What do you do, and why?

katelove 06-06-2013 02:48 PM

This is the first year our DD has really been aware of birthdays - she just turned three.

This is what we did
- put her presents on the coffee table for her to wake up to
- I got up with her and DH (I never do this usually) to open presents together
- family dinner with grandparents and aunt and uncle at which we ate some of her favourite foods
- the following weekend we had a party with her friends

We tried to not hype her up too much about the party because I thought that might lead to meltdowns so we kept the lead-up fairly low key. We didn't not mention it but there was no counting down the days or big conversations about who was coming, what we were eating etc.

For the adults we often end up having more than one celebration because we have two family members who do shift work. So we usually have a small celebration on the day with whoever is available and then a family dinner on a night when everyone can come. My parents, brother and SIL and us all live within 2km of each other so my dad has joked that he wants a party at each house and we sort of do that but only informally. And it's all pretty low-key. A "party" can be afternoon tea with a birthday cake.

Sihaya 06-06-2013 03:37 PM

We made the decision not to make a big deal out of birthdays or holidays very early on in our relationship, long before having children. Our reasons have nothing to do with discouraging entitlement and everything to do with our expectations for our own birthdays being high and being disappointed multiple times in the past. Just as an example, my husband has been beat up on his birthday on two different occasions. We also both have birthdays close to other holidays (Valentine's Day 2 days from mine and Christmas 6 days from his) and often felt ignored and overlooked because of it.

What has ended up happening is that birthdays and holidays are not things we decorate for or make a big deal of at home, but we do go wherever we are invited by family or friends and participate in whatever they want to do. My mom generally buys a cake and gift(s) for each boy on their birthday and invites us to her house where it's just us and her. When we have had big parties in the past, they were for a combination of events we wanted to celebrate (the most recent was for DH's b-day/DS1's b-day/DH's graduation/our housewarming) and we have never managed to have parties like that on a consistent yearly basis.

I have never even considered having a traditional birthday party for either boy, partly because DS1's birthday is closer to Christmas than DH's and it's an impossible time of year to have a children's party. The only downside is that it seems like many people decide who to invite to their kid's party by remembering whose parties their kid was invited to in the past. So, DS1 has only been invited to a handful of birthday parties ever, but he hasn't seemed to notice or mind so far.

choli 06-06-2013 04:03 PM

We've always kept birthdays extremely low key - small family party, one present from parents, one from godparent, one from sibling, and nothing over the top. (We have no other family in this country). As the kids got older, we added a family outing of the birthday girls choice, to which she could bring a friend. This might be a living history thing like Old Sturbridge Village, or a water park, whatever. I hate the whole birthday party scene with the opening of presents and stress over inclusion/exclusion. We made a decision before the kids were born to avoid all that.

limabean 06-06-2013 05:29 PM

I guess it depends on your definition of "a big deal." This is what the mom from the blog post had planned for her DD's birthday:
Quote:
I had the whole day planned. We were going to wake up, and I would go running in the girls’ room screaming “Happy Birthday!” I would spend the day telling my daughter how special she is to me. She would wear her new dress, and we would head out to the local children’s museum where the kids would run around and play for hours. When they were all tuckered out, we would come home and have a peaceful dinner with Daddy and Grandma. Then we would open presents, do cake, and have a whole lot of singing and dancing and merriment.

Fun and celebratory, and making a nice fuss over the birthday girl, but not an extravagant, over-the-top "big deal," IMO. When I think of a big deal, I think of inviting the whole class to a catered party with a rented bounce house or video game truck, not a day at the museum with parents and siblings followed by dinner and cake with the grandparents.

In any case, our parties are fairly low key (along the lines described in the blog), but I do enjoy making a fuss over the birthday kid. A few balloons, a family barbecue, then cake and presents is a typical birthday party for us, with maybe a fun outing (like the children's museum, mini golf, the movies, etc.) at some point during the week.

skycheattraffic 06-06-2013 06:25 PM

We have a party. Some snacks, friends for DD, close family and presents. It's very relaxed, just an excuse to get together, eat drink and be merry. The kids love just being together and playing. We keep it low cost and super casual.

tracyamber 06-06-2013 10:40 PM

We are pretty low key too but # 1 birthday was a big deal. I had it themed and tons of people over. Birthday number 2 was more our style. I think when my son gets older he will be able to tell me what he wants. I always wanted my birthday to be a big deal and it never was. But I had my first birthday party and cake when I turned 24!!!! No, I am not 24 now..lol. 


Linda on the move 06-11-2013 09:00 AM

We've done very different things different years. One of my DD's is super social and has had a couple of HUGE parties (20 teenagers is a lot of humanity to have in one place). My other DD is very quiet and would be completely overwhelmed by that sort of thing. Her biggest ever party was her, her sister, and two other girls going to a paint-your-own-pottery place. We like to do something a bit out of the ordinary to mark the occasion, but some years we haven't done much besides a family celebration.

 

For us, its been more of a "this is how this child would like to celebrate this year" rather than a "this is what our family does for all offspring for all birthdays."


dauphinette 06-11-2013 01:43 PM

I love birthdays and a reason to buy gifts and shower my little one with love.  I just think that's so fun.  But I don't want to over do it, either.

I, too have done different things different years.  Up until three it was just family together with cake/cupcakes and a gift.  At three it was a big party with food, a piñata, lots of playing and friends but certainly no opening gifts in front of everyone, geez I hate that.  Whoever thought of that, well, I won't go there, but I really don't understand that tradition at. all.

Anyway, for four we just went to the zoo with a friend and out to Sushi per dd's request.

This past year for five we took her and 5 friends to the bowling alley for bowling, pizza and cupcakes and it was really fun and over in 3 hours which was perfect.  Again, no opening gifts in front of everyone, we waited til we got home.

 

I have been to several parties for other children and observed some things I like and don't so much enjoy.

I don't like a huge party with 50+ people, I find that to be over-whelming and the gift ratio is insane, a child does not need that many gifts.

I don't like a cake the size of a wedding cake.

I don't like a parent-centric party for children.

 

I do think it's fun to make a big deal out of the day for the child and my daughter talks about her birthdays a lot.  But I would not spend over $200 for a birthday party at this age, and that's the top end.  It's so expensive!  I have  been to two McDonald's bday parties this year and I actually thought that was great.  I know McD's is not healthy, but it's a bday and they give you a place to play in the A/C, lunch for all of the kids, ice cream and cake and it's super affordable.  They also give balloons. 

I also love the idea of an outing with one or two friends somewhere the bday kiddo wants to go.

 

I could never see myself slipping past dd's bady without celebrating in some way.  With at least balloons and cake and a gift.  That's the minimum for us.


phathui5 06-11-2013 01:55 PM

I like the blog post. 

 

I like to make a big deal out of birthdays, in the same spirit as the author, celebrating the birthday person. We usually just do one or two presents from us and the Grandmas will send cards with a little money. If it's a weekday, the birthday kid gets out of doing schoolwork (we homeschool). We always do cake and singing with friends over in the afternoon or evening. 


mamazee 06-11-2013 03:34 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by dauphinette View Post

I love birthdays and a reason to buy gifts and shower my little one with love.  I just think that's so fun.  But I don't want to over do it, either.
I, too have done different things different years.  Up until three it was just family together with cake/cupcakes and a gift.  At three it was a big party with food, a piñata, lots of playing and friends but certainly no opening gifts in front of everyone, geez I hate that.  Whoever thought of that, well, I won't go there, but I really don't understand that tradition at. all.
Anyway, for four we just went to the zoo with a friend and out to Sushi per dd's request.
This past year for five we took her and 5 friends to the bowling alley for bowling, pizza and cupcakes and it was really fun and over in 3 hours which was perfect.  Again, no opening gifts in front of everyone, we waited til we got home.

I have been to several parties for other children and observed some things I like and don't so much enjoy.
I don't like a huge party with 50+ people, I find that to be over-whelming and the gift ratio is insane, a child does not need that many gifts.
I don't like a cake the size of a wedding cake.
I don't like a parent-centric party for children.

I do think it's fun to make a big deal out of the day for the child and my daughter talks about her birthdays a lot.  But I would not spend over $200 for a birthday party at this age, and that's the top end.  It's so expensive!  I have  been to two McDonald's bday parties this year and I actually thought that was great.  I know McD's is not healthy, but it's a bday and they give you a place to play in the A/C, lunch for all of the kids, ice cream and cake and it's super affordable.  They also give balloons. 
I also love the idea of an outing with one or two friends somewhere the bday kiddo wants to go.

I could never see myself slipping past dd's bady without celebrating in some way.  With at least balloons and cake and a gift.  That's the minimum for us.

I agree with a lot of what you're saying. I make what feels like a big deal to me, but it involves a party with maybe 10 kids, a bit of cake for everyone, a child-centered party,and it isn't crazy expensive. The kids love bowling parties and they are fun.

But I do like to create a bit of fuss on that day for them. Really though I don't do much of a typical birthday party until they're 5. Before 5, it's just family, from 5 up I invite friends and have a little kids party.

Storm Bride 06-12-2013 11:12 PM

I've been on the parent end of birthdays for my kids for 20 years, with four different kids. Things have changed a lot, and been a little different from kid to kid, for various reasons (eg. ds2 doesn't have as many friends as his two older siblings, ds1 was public schooled, and his siblings are homeschooled, etc.). But, in general:

 

Up to about age four or five, they get a family party (my kids are all Spring/Summer birthdays, so this is a backyard party at my mom's). This involves lunch for the guests - usually something really basic and mainstream, like hot dogs or pizza - some snack foods (veggie tray, pretzels, etc.) and drinks, plus a homemade cake. There are usually gifts, but nothing too excessive...something from us, and something from the grandparets, godmother, and my brother and SIL (usually not from my sister, as she simply can't afford it, and we don't really need anything, anyway). They almost always get about half clothes, especially as my MIL and FIL always send those. The only guests who aren't family are my godmother, and sometimes my bff, if she happens to be in town.

 

From 4-5 to about 10-11, we do pretty much the same thing, but extend the party to include their friends. We now alternate a backyard party with a venue/theme party (eg. Laser Tag, the pool, etc.), so that dd1 gets a venue one year, and ds2 gets one the alternating year. We put a little into decorating for the backyard parties, but not a whole lot - dd1's bug theme party last year had some glittery butterflies, a couple solar-powered rocking bugs, and a couple other things that I can't really remember. I also do loot bags, which I sort of wish I'd never started, but they're a tradition now, so I'm sticking with them. For the kid getting a backyard party, if the party isn't on their actual birthday, we go to the birthday kid's chosen restaurant dinner on the actual birthday. In the same situation, for the one with the venue party, we'll cook the birthday child's preference. 

 

For the early teens, we tend to go with a small group of friends, and they can just come over and hang...ds1 did a movie one year, and a sleepover another year (dh was out of town, so I had five - maybe it was six - 14 year old boys on my own...canNOT be described). I still do a cake, but the whole vibe is different.

 

For the last few years, ds1 (he's 20) has had a restaurant meal with the family, and then done something on his own with his friends. If he gets it organized promptly enough, I still do his traditional birthday cake - for the last 10 years or so, ds1 has always had a guitar cake - about 3 feet long and 1.5 feet wide, and it wouldn't be his birthday without it. I model it on his Telecaster.

 

The kids always get a gift from us.

 

So, this year, we've had/will have a restaurant dinner for ds1, an ice-skating party and her choice of meal for dd1 (didn't work out, but we're kind of...patching it together), a backyard party and family restaurant meal for ds2, and a backyard family party for dd2.

 

It's a fairly big deal, but I don't think we go way over the top.


mtiger 06-13-2013 08:33 AM

I dunno... I don't think I made a BIG DEAL out of my kids' bdays, but I did make a big deal. Woke them up singing the Birthday Song and made them a special breakfast (whatever the current favorite was). Most of the time it was a work/school day, so sent them off to school. Dinner - they had a choice of their favorite meal at home or out. Depending on availability, family wold join us. If not, we'd do a dinner at home the weekend before or after. Party? #1's bday is close to Christmas, so we pushed his party until February, when things are kind of dead. We did a variety of stuff. Bowling, minor league hockey (surprisingly cheap!), local zoo, home... 

 

It really wasn't about the gifts - it was about celebrating the kid. And that's never bad, IMO.


Nightwish 06-13-2013 06:03 PM

I do mostly like Storm Bride. Up to 3 years, a small family party at home. Up to 7 years, a friends party, still at home. Now that ds turned 8, we started going someplace else for the party; our house is too small for a bunch of 8 y/o and a winter party. This year ds had a swimming party at the YMCA pool.

Dd will have her first friends party in the fall. I find it very stressful, because I mostly worry that the kids won't come (although it never happened, not to have anyone coming). But other than that, I like to see them happy and enjoying themselves.
 


autumnvt 06-13-2013 06:22 PM

Birthdays here are definitely recognized, but also a bit low-key. The birthday kid gets to choose breakfast and dinner made at home. Birthday parties vary from year to year. Sometimes family friends, sometimes a group of friends, sometimes a mix of both, but always at home so far. My oldest is turning eight in August and we'll either do a family friend party at home or the lake or a special outing with his closest 3 friends....
 


Barefoot~Baker 06-19-2013 09:00 AM

First birthdays were big, with many many family and friends invited for a party.  Now we do small-ish family parties and my older kids are allowed to invite a friend over for a sleep-over.  


myra1 07-02-2013 07:12 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by dauphinette View Post

I love birthdays and a reason to buy gifts and shower my little one with love.  I just think that's so fun.  But I don't want to over do it, either.
I, too have done different things different years.  Up until three it was just family together with cake/cupcakes and a gift.  At three it was a big party with food, a piñata, lots of playing and friends but certainly no opening gifts in front of everyone, geez I hate that.  Whoever thought of that, well, I won't go there, but I really don't understand that tradition at. all.
Anyway, for four we just went to the zoo with a friend and out to Sushi per dd's request.
This past year for five we took her and 5 friends to the bowling alley for bowling, pizza and cupcakes and it was really fun and over in 3 hours which was perfect.  Again, no opening gifts in front of everyone, we waited til we got home.
Im curious why you dont open gifts in front of guests? I see where it can feel awkward, especially considering kids often look less than thrilled with the gift, but assumed it would be rude not to, like the givers would want to see the childs reaction/receive a thank you and the kid needs to learn to be gracious.

I even feel obligated to invite relatives to the party who I would prefer not to if I know they will send a gift anyway because I figure they deserve to be included and see it opened. I'm seriously still figuring out birthday ettiquite.

choli 07-02-2013 03:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by myra1 View Post


Im curious why you dont open gifts in front of guests? I see where it can feel awkward, especially considering kids often look less than thrilled with the gift, but assumed it would be rude not to, like the givers would want to see the childs reaction/receive a thank you and the kid needs to learn to be gracious.

I even feel obligated to invite relatives to the party who I would prefer not to if I know they will send a gift anyway because I figure they deserve to be included and see it opened. I'm seriously still figuring out birthday ettiquite.

 

Givers can receive a thank you without being present for the opening. I think that especially with younger children, it can lead to jealousy and tantrums to have to watch another child open lots of gifts. Much more gracious to send a thank you card afterward.

Nightwish 07-03-2013 06:38 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by choli View Post

 

Givers can receive a thank you without being present for the opening. I think that especially with younger children, it can lead to jealousy and tantrums to have to watch another child open lots of gifts. Much more gracious to send a thank you card afterward.

What if you don't have the givers' addresses to send them thank you cards?

When ds invites his classmates to his party, I don't know most of them, or their parents. Ds took the bus to school this year, so there was no opportunity for me to meet the parents. How would I give them thank you cards?


mommariffic 07-04-2013 07:34 AM

I love birthdays - it's a super special day for the children  

 

We do a children's party and I try to make it magical (and themed if requested..) this year my son had a "robot party" that had to change to the park last minute because we had work on the roof, but I gave everyone little robots to take home (originally had crafts to do at the house..) and my daughter wants to do a horse/pegasus/unicorn party in August so my friend is bringing over her horse to paint/ride (and I got a knit unicorn horn for it, how silly!) We live in a pretty farm-y area so that's how that's possible...

 

And we have a family party too which is super low-key - my small family comes, we cook, we eat, we swim (summer birthdays..) ON the kids birthday my DH takes off and they get to choose what sort of adventure we have. Most years it's a water/amusement park that's super small and about a half hour away...sometimes it's going to the river to swim. I also wake the kids up with a birthday ring/candle lightening, and some presents on the table. Normally they get one "big" present and a few smaller things (this year my son got a wooden marble run, and a sticker set/tea set) 

 

 

So a wee bit over the top, but I can't help it! 


mamarhu 07-04-2013 09:03 AM

The Dumplings are now in their late teens, so a real party wouldn't really fit. When they were younger, we did a small-scale party - a few child-chosen friends (no gifts, please), and a minor planned activity: swimming, bowling, etc. Sleepovers when they were at that stage. Then a family meal of the child's choice. Either home or restaurant. Nowdays, I use birthdays as an excuse for a really special gift I can't really afford. Last year it was a saxaphone for YoungSon, some ridiculously expensive kitchen tools for BigGirl  for example. We still always have a special family dinner to celebrate.

 

We give each other small gifts all year - a cool toy or book I come across, craft supplies to share. We don't really do gift giving as an occasion. It seems to detract from the fun - expectations and disappointment, a thing-oriented mood, rather than experience (fun) oriented.
 


NiteNicole 07-04-2013 09:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by choli View Post

 

Givers can receive a thank you without being present for the opening. I think that especially with younger children, it can lead to jealousy and tantrums to have to watch another child open lots of gifts. Much more gracious to send a thank you card afterward.


See, I think those are all good life lessons - it's not always about you, sometimes you have to sit politely through something that isn't RIVETING because it's the polite thing to do, you don't always get exactly what other people have, etc.  I WANT my daughter to learn these lessons.  As the gift opener, I want her to learn that if someone take the time to give you a gift, you take the time to open it, say thank you, etc, even if it's not exactly what you wanted, something you already have, or something you actively dislike.  You thank the person because they made the effort.

 

At the same time, I understand when people skip opening the gifts at a party because the party time is limited and the kids just want to PLAY.  In some venues, time is very limited so taking half an hour to slowly, respectfully open gifts can mean losing 1/4 of your party to gift opening.

 

We have done one big (all scouts, class, cousins, etc) party, one small sleep over, a park party with a few friends, and family gatherings.  It is so important to ME that we make a big deal out of her birthday and that we include her in making a big deal for each other. "A big deal" usually consists of - favorite breakfast, lots of hugs, hand made decorations, goofy poems and songs, cake, a treat to share at school, dinner out at her favorite place (which is so not mine) with my brother and his family.  It doesn't have to be anything crazy, but it's fun and I hope she feels special.  I think it's important to include her in making a big deal of birthdays for others, too.  My favorite "tradition" is getting a picture with the cousins on all their birthdays.  I can't believe they're all growing up so fast.



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