Years ago, when our oldest was young, we decided that friend birthday parties would probably be something we wouldn’t consistently do for our children. Not because we don’t see a value in those types of parties, but as a military family that moves every few years (on a schedule that we have no control over), it would be unkind to our children to set the precedent and expectation that there would always be friend parties. Instead, we chose to have a very focused family day. We have even been able to manage the birthdays Michael misses. Sometimes we celebrate a bit early or late, and other times, when he won’t be home for a solid 3 months on either side of the birthday, I do a little extra and Michael sends that child something special from his deployment location.
Two years ago, when we moved to Alaska, we arrived a mere six days before our middle guy’s 8th birthday. It was then that we were the most thankful we had never set them up for the friend party expectation because there were no friends.
In the early years, Michael and I chose what happened on birthdays, but as they each get older, they are being allowed the freedom to choose what we do – EXCEPT for the 10th birthday (more on that below). Activities can be pretty much anything that is cost effective for all 5 of us – a movie at the theater WITH popcorn, a meal at a restaurant, the child’s favorite activity, celebrations with extended family when we are near, new books, etc.
The tenth birthday:
Sometime before our oldest turned 10, we decided that ten would be a milestone birthday in our family. The birthday child gets a few days away, doing something specifically catered to them, with the parent of the same gender. Oh, and the details of the trip are a surprise until they get underway!
Jacob is our science minded, creative writer. He also enjoys creating very elaborate Lego scenes and fondly remembers and still talks about his trip to Chicago (we were living in Ohio at the time) with Michael. They visited the Shedd Aquarium, Legoland Discovery Center, bookstores, ate meals at restaurants, and talked about the adventures of growing into a man!
Yesterday, May 26th, was Eli’s tenth birthday. Eli is our hardcore outdoorsman! He would never come inside or bathe if he didn’t have to! He is handy and adventurous. The suspense of not knowing where he was going for his trip has been fun to watch. He put a few pieces together and ultimately kind of knew what we were planning, but we never let on about it!! We planned a cabin camping trip at a very nice lake on our military base for him! So, after a yummy breakfast at our favorite local place, we banished him to his room so Michael could pack the car!
They headed out late morning and I probably won’t hear from them until sometime Saturday!! I am so excited to hear about his adventures of campfires, kayaking, hiking, whittling sticks, using some of his survival skills, and getting to do what makes his heart sing! They’ll also have some chats about the adventures of growing in to a man, but he probably won’t come home telling me about that part of the trip.
I still have a little over two years before I get to do my own trip with our daughter, but I am excited to have the opportunity!
I love when others share how they handle life. What are birthdays like for your children?
** We constantly have an open dialog about anything, including puberty, body things, maturity, sex, marriage, and the like, but there’s something extra reassuring about having some time away to really open up about whatever is on your mind.