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Tuesday, March 1, 2011


This past month we celebrated two birthdays, my oldest daughter turned 6 and my youngest son turned 2. Because of this I have been thinking a lot about celebrating birthdays and all of the different ways that people choose to celebrate birthdays. My husband and I both have VERY different opinions on how we should celebrate them and I must admit that my husband has made more concessions than I have in this department. A lot of our attitudes stem from our childhood and how our parents treated our birthdays.

  My husband's family is not gift oriented people at all. My mother-in-law thinks that getting flowers is a waste of money because they are just going to die and is much more appreciative of a person weeding her garden than giving her flowers. On top of them not being gift people they also didn't have a lot of money and so their birthdays consisted of cake and ice cream and a small gift. They didn't have a bunch of people over either, it was just his parents and siblings celebrating most of the time. Aunts and uncles didn't give gifts and didn't come over for the birthday celebration. The gifts also were not extravagant, one year his sister received a jar of pickles for her birthday. However, as small as the celebration was and as few as the gifts they received their mom made sure they felt special (or embarrassed?) on their birthday by singing Happy Birthday to them either on the school bus or on the baseball field.

  My family celebrated birthdays very differently. My family is a much more gift oriented family and even though we were also dirt poor my parents made sure we received a nice birthday gift for our birthday. We had friends over for small birthday parties where it was nothing extravagant, mostly us playing around the house and having cake and opening presents. My aunts and uncles and grandparents sent us cards with money for how old we were and we would occasionally get together for cousin's birthdays and have big parties. We went over to our friends houses for slumber parties and other birthday parties. My parties were never as big or as fun as my friends, and often my parents would take my birthday money for gas or groceries and so even though they tried it was more often than not that our birthdays left us feeling unimportant and unloved.

 Now take both of those pasts and you can see why it is such a struggle for my husband and I to come to an agreement on how birthdays should be celebrated. Here is how we have decided to compromise on the issue. We have a set budget for each birthday and if we want to give our kids a birthday party then the cost of the party comes out of that budget. We also do spending money every week where each week we take out a set amount of money and that is the money we use for groceries and clothes and going out to eat and whatever other miscellaneous things we want to buy, so if I have extra spending money I can use that to spend more on the birthday if I want. My husband still thinks it is unnecessary for my kids to have big birthday parties but because they are budgeted for already I get to throw them and make them as big or as small as I want. This past month we didn't have big parties for our kids because I am 8 months pregnant and my husband just had hernia surgery so for the 2 yr old it was just my husband and I and our three kids and we did things that we knew O would like, and it was really nice to have that family time - but he is also 2 and could care less about his birthday and is just ecstatic about the Toy Story book he received. My daughter is older and cares a lot more about her birthday then O does and it was harder for me to not give her party where she received a lot of presents and got to play with friends. We had a few people over for cake and ice cream and gifts and it was a whirlwind of craziness and within an hour everyone had come and gone and I felt like my daughter got screwed on feeling special for her small party. She still had fun and received nice gifts, but it wasn't like her previous birthdays.

My husband and I got into quite a heated discussion after her party about how I felt about the attitudes of the guests and the gifts that she received and it made me curious to know what other people think about their kids birthdays and how they celebrate it. So I am asking you to leave a comment and let me know how you celebrate your kids birthdays and how you handle giving gifts to other kids and other family members!


  1. We have a 10 year old and 15 mo old and for us it depends on the year. If we have extra money then they get a bigger party to include their friends. Family is always involved for cake & ice cream and they get one big gift or a few smaller ones. But they understand that every party or Christmas may not be the same. Some bigger or some smaller, but family is always first. And if they want a bigger party then they may not get as many gifts b/c we budget it out as well. This year E wants to go to the movies w/ a few of his buddies so he'll get that and a small gift, then cake & ice cream at home w/ family.

  2. For me- it's a birthDAY. We spend the whole day celebrating that person and it starts with their favorite foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I'm cooking anyway so it's not an added expense- it just requires pre-planning. I always make them a cake shaped or colored how they want it- dragons, dinosaurs, legos or whatever they're in to (and I can make)and then we play games and have cake- complete with lots of fire :). There's usually just one present but with my kids- nobody understands so everyone gets a goody bag. We always do something fun for that person- swimming, zoo or friends over- We've done a few full blown parties with outside friends but have asked for little or no presents just so the kids don't dwell on that- we tell them it's about the fun- not the presents. I LOVE birthdays and plan them months in advance. You can get deals on party favors, etc if you have time to look and it really is the simple things that we remember the most. I figure we made a lot of effort and plans to be ready for their special day of coming into this world- why not plan a little to celebrate them being here! :)

  3. So obviously since I'm from the hubby's family I had to make a comment. Growing up my mom never bought gifts when we went to our friends' parties. We were always the ones to show up without gifts. When we asked our mom about it she always said, "Either they invited you to the party or they invited your present. If they want you there you can go because they invited you." My mom felt that if someone spent a lot of money on us when we went to a party and felt jipped we didn't bring a present that was their fault because she didn't ask them to spend on her kid.

    (situation 1) We may have gotten jipped on the presents and feeling special sometimes but we always felt loved. that's the most important.

    (situation 2) Bubba and Stina were foster kids and for their bdays their parents had huge parties with tons of friends and presents . . . but were never sure they were loved.

    priorities, priorities

    I think sometimes parents are living vicariously through their kids with these overblown "picture perfect parties" (I'm not talking about you but about kinda those utah moms who make everything look like it's out of a magazine) but guess what, the kids don't care if the cake balls are professionally made and the colors are coordinated just so - that's more about what parents like instead of the kids.

    For me the kids like being made to feel special: so they get to choose the meals, eat of the special birthday plate, choose the activity, etc.

  4. Every year I throw a party for my kids, no matter their age. I include friends and family. You can pull big, fun parties off on a budget. Whether it be at your home, the park, someone's swimming pool, or wherever you see fit! We always make sure that the birthday child feels special and knows they are loved.

    Many times guests have come to the party without bringing a gift, and the birthday child didn't feel jipped. It was just fun for everyone to get together and enjoy each other, and above all things enjoy the birthday child. I feel it is important to include the entire family in this. If they can't attend, we completely understand.

    As for us attending other children's parties, I shop throughout the year and purchase toys on clearance or on sale. The children never seem to be unhappy with them. If they were, I would simply not bring a gift next time.

    With the current economy though, many people don't even seem to be throwing parties due to finances. My rule of thumb on this is- if we are invited to a party we bring a gift. If there is no party, we don't bring a gift to them.

  5. So I have to say that I had two of the guests call me and apologize for rushing in and out and I really didn't intend for that in this post, it really was just a post to see how others felt about birthdays and I do appreciate their apologies and I appreciate that they came and spent time with M for her birthday.

    Thanks for all of the comments everyone. I completely agree that the important thing is to make the birthday person feel special and loved.

    Kris I never knew that you guys never took presents to other people's parties and I think that helps me understand your family's attitude about gifts A LOT more! T had completely forgotten about that.


Please be aware that I reserve the right to delete any comment that I feel is offensive to myself or other readers - we are all trying to be the best we can and we must respect each others opinions. You can disagree just don't be rude.