I woke up this morning and my baby was 5 years old. I know, because he told me so. Actually, he said "Mommy, it is time to get up and it is my Birthday Today!!!! That means that everyone has to do what I want but don't worry - I will be nice to you, too, 'cause you are so beautiful....." (ever wanted to laugh and sob all at the same time???)
Birthdays, I think, can be tricky. They are such an important day - a time to celebrate, to make someone feel extra-special, to celebrate all of the wonderful people that together make up a family. They also tend to sneak up on you (or on me, at least!) All too often the big day arrives and I am nowhere near as prepared as I would like to be, or as I think my kids deserve. I also struggle with the whole 'balance' thing. My boys know that birthdays include presents, and I don't mind that. I love the looks on their faces when they open up a gift that will bring them joy - a toy that they have wanted, a book to read with a loved one, something that a friend or family member made themselves as a sign of affection. But Birthdays are not just about presents. In our too-fast-and-busy lives, I do worry that we end up spending money instead of time and attention on our kids. Believe me, they know that it is not the same thing.
I thought that I would share with you a few of my favorite Birthday traditions. Many of them we observe with each and every birthday, others I have heard about from other families and would love to bring in to our family.
*My favorite, which is an ongoing project, is a journal that I keep for each of my boys. I started them the day that they were born, and write in them each year on their birthday (or as close to it as I can). I write about how much I love them, what I appreciate about them, and the person that they are growing into. I write about what has happened in their lives since their last birthday, what they love, who their friends are, their favorites (foods, activities, books), and anything else that seems important at the time. I try to add little notes into it throughout the year with some of the cute/wise sayings that kids always seem to come up with. I will give it to them at some point in their adult lives, not quite sure when yet...
*Birthday story telling - every child loves to hear the story of how they came to be in this world
*The birthday child gets to choose the meals for the day (with some basic nutritional requirements)
*Many, many phone calls from friends and family who cannot be here in person to celebrate - for a 5 year old, hearing 'there is a phone call for you!!" is definitely a highlight of the day.
*Mommy and Daddy take the day off work. Not possible every single year, but we try really, really hard for this one. Setting our family as a priority in our lives means showing it through the choices that we make.
*Siblings are always responsible for decorating the birthday cake. Don't worry - you can scrape the truck load of sprinkles off of your piece of cake if you like.
*Mom and Dad try extra hard to relax. This one was manifest today when William, at 9pm, locked himself in the boy's bedroom because he had a "really really special surprise to make for Charlie....". When the door was finally opened, William had made Charlie's bed, arranged his multitude of stuffed animals around the pillows, and made a huge fort / nest on the floor with blankets and pillows for Charlie to sleep in, if he preferred. He then proceeded to take Charlie on a piggy-back ride tour of the bedroom. Needless to say it was past 10pm before they were asleep, but with big smiles on their faces.
*Neighbourhood Birthday Cake - since we don't do big parties with dozens of kid friends in our family, we make sure to find other ways to include the boys' friends in the celebrations. After dinner tonight, William ran off to all of our neighbours' homes to invite them over for cake and ice cream. Charlie loved all of the attention and company, without anyone feeling obliged to bring a gift. 7 kids and 5 parents spent the hour after dinner enjoying the late spring evening, and stuffing ourselves with chocolate cake and ice cream.
*And of course, lots and lots and lots of hugs and kisses.