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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 Memoirand 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