As I was putting a few things together for my son’s birthday, I tried to remember what a birthday celebration was like for me as a kid.
Unfortunately, when I sat down and thought about it, I couldn’t remember a single birthday from my childhood. Not a single amazing party, gift or theme came to mind.
It’s not because my childhood wasn’t magical. It’s not because the gifts weren’t present. It’s not because I have a sad story filled with emptiness from my younger years.
Quite the opposite actually.
My childhood was happy. I was well-loved and cared for. And there is plenty of photographic evidence to prove it.
When I couldn’t remember my childhood birthdays, I went digging for photos to help me remember. It turns out, I have an endless array of birthday photos with yours truly surrounded by mounds of gifts, Chuckie Cheese prizes, and balloons.
Yet, I don’t remember.
How to make a birthday celebration for kids memorable.
I recently saw a beautiful meme that shows a child playing outside and reads, “Kids don’t remember their best day of television.”
That’s when I had an AHA moment.
When I saw the meme, I closed my eyes and thought about what I did remember from my childhood.
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I remember spending my summers Up North at our cabin on the lake playing card games with my grandmother while we split a Graf’s Cream Soda. I remember playing trivial pursuit with my dad in the evenings in the winter. I remember eating chicken for dinner on Sundays and playing in my backyard.
I also remember riding my bike to the stream a mile from my house and throwing rocks in it, and later getting in trouble for being too far from home without permission.
But more than anything, I remember my parents and grandparents really being there.
Birthday celebrations for kids are different now.
There are themes, intricate party favors, Pinterest perfect cakes and endless presents. And while all of those things are beautiful and enticing, it is also tiring.
And sometimes, disappointing for kids and parents.
Maybe you spend hours crafting the perfect birthday party for your child, only to witness an epic temper tantrum over the “wrong” presents. Or maybe you found the perfect birthday cake and baked it beautifully, only to have your child say it tastes “yucky.” Or maybe your kids have mounds of birthday gifts and toys, only to regularly complain that they are “bored.”
This is the hard part…
You can spend three weeks preparing for the perfect three-day birthday celebration for kids, and they still won’t appreciate it fully or even remember years down the road.
But you know what they will remember?
More than all the fancy decorations, themes, cakes, presents, party favors, pinatas, bouncy houses, clowns, petting zoos, and guests, your kids will remember that you were engaged and present in their life.
Your kids will remember that you were there to greet them in the morning and kiss them goodnight at bedtime. Your kids will remember that you sat next to them for meals. Your kids will remember that you ran with them at the playground.
And yes, your kids will remember that you spent an entire summer of evenings playing cards and sharing cream sodas.
Because more than anything, your kids want YOU.
I figured out how to give my son birthday to remember.
Looking at all my childhood birthday photos, it was easy to plan a memorable birthday party for my son. In the morning he woke up to a balloon, his favorite breakfast, and one present: a train set.
photo credit: StarsApart
We spent the day playing with him and the trains. We went to the pool. We ate a family dinner. We sang to him and helped him make a wish. We snuggled at watched a Thomas movie together.
We even split a cream soda.
Years into his adult life, there’s a high probability that my son won’t remember this day.
I can only hope for one thing: that no matter what, he will remember that the people who love him the most—the people who always have his back—were fully present to celebrate another fabulous year of his life.
As you plan the next birthday celebration for your kids, remember this: Your child’s birthday becomes memorable when you are present. More than anything, your kids will always remember YOU.
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