“What about at the trampoline park?” I asked in a slightly hopeful tone.
“No,” he replied
“Paint your own pottery?” I suggested
“No,” she replied
“No! We want to go to Great Wolf Lodge!” they both sang out in unison.
For the past few years my kids have unanimously decided to skip a birthday party and instead the four of us pack up and head to Great Wolf Lodge for a day or two of family fun.
It’s been fantastic. Even I have fun. We have one kid who is officially big enough for all the slides so I have a partner in fun rather than being stuck wading in the shin deep water of the littlest kid section watching the youngest run up and slide down and run up and slide down all day long.
We walk the halls waving magic wands while we play wizards and magicians. There are trips to the candy store, pizza dinners and birthday ice cream from the ice cream shop. Evenings are spent playing in the arcade in our pj’s and there are toes to be painted in the salon. Great Wolf Lodge goes all out for guests celebrating birthdays. We always leave with big smiles on our faces and our hearts full of joy.
It’s fun. A lot more fun than planning a super expensive birthday party, walking out with a car load of presents that we don’t need and being responsible for 20 kids for a couple of hours.
Yet every year I find myself trying to talk my kids into having a traditional birthday party.
Because I’m often caught between what you are ‘supposed’ to do and what I want to do.
Birthday parties are what you do for your kids. There should be invitations, balloons, homemade cake and loot bags. That’s what is done.
At least that’s what I thought.
Until I realized that there is no right way to celebrate anything. My kids have so much fun hanging out with us that they would choose that over a couple hours with their friends.
My kids are frequently on the receiving end of birthday invitations and I worried that other parents would feel upset that their kids never received an invitation in return.
The logical side of me knows that I can’t be concerned with what others think of me. My main focus is what works best for my family. For now that means weekends away and experiences rather than traditional parties and more stuff. I would like to think that other families see the benefit in our choice of celebration and recognize that it’s not personal.
Celebrating birthdays with a weekend away means that we get to spend time together as a family, building memories. Whether that is at a waterpark or a art exhibit or just a hotel where you order room service and hang out as a family, all that matters is you are having fun celebrating together. It means that I don’t have 20 sugar filled kids running circles around me through my house or at a party venue. It means that I don’t have to find room for a whole pile of presents because the last thing we need is more stuff. When all is said and done I have spent roughly the same amount of money.
My kids learn that it’s not presents and stuff that makes for happy memories. It’s the laughter we share, the fun we have and the memories we make.
The idea doesn’t just apply to birthdays. Days at the museum, a membership at our local science centre, an afternoon at high tea, tickets to a play or a movie or a sporting event are all amazing ways to spend quality time together. There are so many ways you can give gifts to the kids in your life without spending a fortune and adding to their pile of stuff.
The day may come when my kids will choose to have a birthday party rather than spend a weekend away with their parents and if it does I will put myself in full party planning mode. Your birthday is the one day a year when you get to do what you want. For now, though, I will cherish the time we get to spend together. We will laugh, we will play and we will live. In the midst of all that fun, I will forget about what I think I should be doing and just enjoy the moment. Because when I am with my family there is so much joy to be had.