I have three boys. The oldest two have birthdays just four days apart July 28 & August 1. Yes, four days. Yes, my husband and I have a ‘lucky’ month. Yes, we know what causes that. And yes, I was pregnant in the hellish Texas summer. For eight years now, as summer starts wrapping up, I have been throwing some Pinterest worthy bashes (even before the days of Pinterest). Some years they had a joint party together, some years they had separate ones. With the late summer birthdays, my little sinners (Yes, I called my kids sinners) start discussing their party and birthday shenanigans as soon as school lets out in May. With nothing else exciting to keep them occupied, thoughts of bounce houses, trampoline parks, three layer cakes, and goody bags full of junk seems to consume them. Like puppies with a fresh bone, they start salivating at the very mention of the word ‘birthday’. Why on earth do they do this?
Oh that’s right, because I have conditioned them to do so. I am the one who once spent two weeks cutting and painting an appliance box to look like a dog house for Mikey’s first birthday. I am the one who made each guest their own Star Wars applique t-shirt for a party a few years ago. It was me who spent the better part of a day making Ninja Turtle faces out of fondant last year. And for what? So all my other mommy friends can come over and either and A.) think I’m super-woman B.) secretly be jealous of my abilities or C.) all of the above.
Just a few snippets of parties over the past 7 years…
This summer, I overheard my older boys one-upping each other about who was having what kind of birthday and who was getting what. I cringed. I could not bear to hear my little heathens sound so selfish. Sadly, I knew since I had created this monster, I had to be the one to stop it.
So this year was the year with out a birthday party. We started easing into it by telling them that the true meaning of birthdays was about celebrating the person and spending time with people you love. They were hesitant at first, but the more we talked about it, I think the idea kind of grew on them. And by grew on them, I mean they didn’t scream and pout every time we mentioned no party. After all, they are just little boys, so all they really care about it is seeing their friends when it all comes down to it. So we let each boy pick two friends and we took them on a fun outing. We picked Lego Land– not cheap, but still much more inexpensive than a party at a big place with bounce houses or trampolines. There was no Evite or paper invitations. I group texted the moms of the other boys. There was no decor– no scouring Pinterest for tablescapes, creative food ideas, and games. After Lego Land we took the boys to Cici’s for pizza. That way they could eat as much of whatever they wanted and I didn’t have to prep anything or calculate how many slices of pizza to order for a bunch of hungry boys. There was no fancy cake. Oh the cake…..Sniffle….. I could go on for days about cake. Layers of flour, sugar, & butter puts me in my happy place, but alas, that had to go as well. We went with a cookie cake from Paradise Bakery. Seventeen dollars and amazing!! The best part…wait for it… No stinking good bags!! Hallelujah!!! I’ve never been a fan of the plastic bag o’junk from Oriental Trading, and if my kids ever receive one, I almost always toss it when they aren’t looking. (Sorry, not sorry.) But not being a fan of that mindless sack, that means I always have to come up with a party favor that’s super awesome or super creative, which most often equals super expensive. Instead, at Lego Land we purchased each child a little key chain as a favor. They got to pick what they wanted. Done. And done. I don’t even have any photos to show for it because I was too busy just having fun with my boys instead of trying to stage the perfect shot for Instagram. #birthday #soblessed 😉
Why oh why would we be so cruel to do this to our kids? I mean, everybody has a birthday party, right?
There was a sense of entitlement that seemed to be growing every year with each birthday celebration. If I am out doing myself now and they are still so little, what kind of hoops will I have to go through as the years go by to continue to impress them with mere ‘stuff’. Just last week Mikey asked me if he could have a Sweet 16. Seriously kid? First of all you are a boy, second, you are 8. No and no.
The Father gives us many gifts—love, mercy, friendship, laughter, hope, and grace to name a few. Every good and perfect gift is from above– James 1:17-– This is more than just a token verse to hang on a baby’s nursery wall. Everything that is good in this world– which incidentally are things that cannot be bought at Target and tossed into a regifted Spiderman bag— are gifts the Father pours on us and desires for us to pass them on to others. He doesn’t lavish us with gifts because when we expect it or because we think we deserve it. He blesses us for no other reason than because He loves us. My prayer is that my boys would understand that they receive gifts as a means of showing love, not because they did anything to earn it.
Stewardship of Resources & Time
I think I might have a small stroke if I were to add up not only the dollars, but the hours of time I have spent on birthday party stuff for my kids. How is this being a good steward of the financial gifts I have been given? Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 ,”Where you treasure is, there you heart will be also.” Notice the ‘treasure’ comes first, then the heart follows. Instead of paper cutouts, designer invitations, and mason jars full of candy, what if I had spent those hundreds of dollars on less fortunate kids in my city who never celebrate a birthday ? What if instead of high dollar perfect cakes I had baked a box of Funfetti myself and given the leftover money to my local church plant or bought food for a food pantry? And the hours upon hours of cutting out letters, arranging things perfectly, and writing and re-writing chalk board labels? That time and energy could have been invested in actually playing with my kids or even taking a nap!
If your family is like mine, birth-day, quickly becomes birthday week and possibly even birthday month. Our littles are like leeches when it comes to indulgence; the more you give the more they want. It’s a really terrible cycle to fall into. I’ve noticed my kids in years’ past have a birthday hangover where they just can’t seem to get enough of anything for a week or two after the big day. Because we spent an entire day revolving around their every whim and spending more time, effort, and money than necessary, they seem to wake up the following day wanting that again. “But it’s my birthday week, ” I hear over and over. We should be teaching them humility. Phillipians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves.” Overindulgence leads to selfishness which leads to a cycle that is difficult to break. For me, it’s like a cheat meal. I eat way too much pizza and brownies. Because my body is not used to it, by the time I crawl into bed, I fall asleep dreaming of kale and grilled chicken and telling myself I will never eat sugar again. But then I wake up and there is leftover pizza in a box on the counter and a half a pan of brownies covered in foil calling my name. Before I know it, my weakness for what I think I want in that instant overtakes me and I’m licking brownie crumbs off my fingers. It’s hard to stop the cycle of ‘me’.
Isn’t the true meaning of a birthday to celebrate the birth and life of that person? Solomon tells us to enjoy life, however many years we may live. (Ecclesiastes 11:8) Jesus himself tells us that he came so that we may not only have life, but that we may have it abundantly. (John 10:10). Sadly though, I have lost sight over the years of what the true celebration of birth a nd life looks like and instead filled it with just a whole bunch of Pin-worthy junk in an effort to make myself feel better. I commend those of you who still have backyard parties with store brand juice boxes and Target bakery neon-blue iced cake. I wish I had started that way eight years ago. When we are gone, our kids are not going to care what they ate or what kind of favors were passed out, they are only going to remember feeling loved and cherished.
If you have alternative methods of birthday celebrations, I would love to here about them and how they worked for you and your family! Comment below or send me an email via the ‘Contact’ link above.