Birthday parties are almost a childhood rite of passage. I understand that. I truly do. And while you might expect a mom to post about “Top Birthday Party Themes,” this isn’t what I’m here to share. I want to talk about my happy, healthy no birthday party household.
As you can see, we do the birthday thing a little differently in our household. We don’t do it differently because we think our way is better, but rather because it’s simply what works best for us as a family. We don’t stop our children from going to birthday parties if they want to attend them, but we also don’t force them to attend. And while they have fun at those parties, they haven’t asked why they don’t have their own.
To explain why we are a no birthday party home, I’ve decided to break this down into two parts for you. Let’s get into it!
Part One: Why We Are a No Birthday Party Family
I’d like to start by saying our kids don’t suffer. As far as I know, they have never once felt like they are missing out by not having birthday parties. They seem to let me know about all of their other needs, so I assume they would let me know if they needed a birthday party. The fact that they are happy is key, but I’ll get into that later on.
Like most people, our lives are very busy, so to schedule birthday parties can be challenging when you are trying to work with everyone else to make sure your child’s friends can all be there. When do you send those invites out? Two weeks in advance? A month? Truth is, at one point I sent out invites for my one of my daughter’s birthday parties two months in advance. That was the last party we had, at our beautiful local art gallery. She was 4 years old.
Speaking of timing for sending invites, you must book a place insanely far in advance of the actual birthday. Especially when you live in an area with limited places to book. Want to celebrate in July? Better book by May. Not to mention that where we are located, most places where birthday parties are held are at least a 30-minute drive.
Right now, our children’s ages are still in that phase where parents often stay during the birthday party, and this is one of the large reasons we won’t throw parties at our home. Our home is our place of comfort — our sanctuary if you will. We have no issue hosting a BBQ with friends, but there is something different about hosting birthday parties at your home. Our dog ends up having to spend the day in the basement so we don’t have to worry about others being scared by her harmless barks. The cat ends up hiding because she wants nothing to do with the crowd. Birthday parties are stressful and time-consuming.
To be honest, cost also is a huge component of why we initially decided to give up birthday parties. Parties are expensive, and there is too much pressure to compete. Our kids feel the competition of “so and so had a better party” even at a young age.
Part Two: What We Do Instead of Birthday Parties
This is where it gets fun for us. In the month leading up to birthdays, we ask our kids to start making their birthday lists. We don’t go all out for birthday gifts, but we feel it is key that their “big gift” is the gift they’ve been really wanting (within reason). This year, our son wanted a Bubble Hockey Arcade game which was nixed quite quickly since they retail for around $3,000, but he settled quite nicely on his next top choice of dinosaur Legos and a few surprises. The same will go for our daughter who has asked for a whole bedroom makeover and has now settled on an iPod. So, top birthday gifts are our number one way of making their day special.
Next up is that it truly becomes “THEIR DAY.” In lieu of birthday parties, our kids get to choose to do whatever they want on their birthday.
We take the day off of work and spend the entire day doing what they want. Our daughter has a summer birthday so this will always be easy, but this is the last year that our son won’t have school on his birthday since he begins kindergarten in the fall (so we’ll move the celebration to the weekend).
We keep these days as local as possible but still focus on what they want to do. Last year, our son chose for us to take a ride out the Kangamangus Highway stopping at every picturesque site, and continuing to North Conway to have a special lunch at Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co. We finished the day by driving by the Mount Washington Resort on the way home. Our daughter decided on a scenic ride where she used our old DSLR camera to start taking photos for her own album, and a train ride plus mini golf in Loon.
This year, our son chose to visit the Vermont state capital, Montpelier, to see the toy store, and then take a drive out to Cabot to visit the Cabot Creamery and indulge in cheese and goodies. After that, we came home to pick up his sister and we finished the day at Lowes. And we can’t wait to see what our daughter has in store for us this year.
The point is that our kids feel like their birthdays completely revolve around them. To us, that is what a birthday is about. Not birthday parties, but rather about celebrating their birth. Their day. A day where they get to feel special and feel like they are making the decisions in a world where we as parents are often making their decisions for them.
It’s been incredible to embrace their decisions for the day trip, and as a family, we have really used these as days to explore our own state. Our kids love to be a part of local happenings, but what I think they like even more is celebrating the day on their terms.