Happy Birthday!

If you have school-aged kids, you’re likely an expert at the birthday party rodeo.  You know the drill: get the invitation, check your calendar, send your response, think about needing to buy a gift, forget about the gift until the last minute, and then run around finding something appropriate that you hope the birthday kid doesn’t already have and hopefully have enough time to wrap it in time for the party.  Whew!

When my boys were younger, I used my love of sewing to make birthday kids a special garment for the birthday gift.  Before I had a girl to sew for, I always made dresses for birthday girls.  Boys got t-shirts or pajamas or lego sacks.  I liked making something original, and the recipients (and their parents) always appreciated the effort.

My sewing time is quite precious these days, and although I still love gift sewing more than any other type, I’m not good about getting projects done on a deadline.  After a few months of running the rodeo described above, I came to the realization that it was totally silly. Most of the kids we know are blessed to want for nothing.  For the most part, birthday gifts get lost in a sea of toys and games and puzzles and books.

After some consideration, I talked with my boys about what celebrating someone’s birthday really means.  Together we decided that it would be fun to stop giving their friends birthday gifts and instead take the birthday kid on a special outing. I don’t claim this as an original idea—I remember my mom urging my teenage self to take a friend to the movies rather than buy a birthday gift.  Mom knows best!

For my boys—now ages 6 and 9—these outings have been mostly active events.  We’ve taken friends bowling; we’ve gone mini golfing; we’ve ice skated; we’ve swum in Barton Springs; we’ve rented canoes.  Sometimes we’ll go for sno-cones or a freshly-baked Tiff’s Treat cookie after our outing.  The birthday kid gets to choose the activity, and so far we’ve had lots of happy friends.  I always take pictures and email them to the honoree’s parents to share the smiles.

Without exception, the parents of these kids have raved about our birthday outing idea.  We all agree that spending time with our friends is what really matters.  I believe that teaching my kids that being a good friend is one of the most valuable traits to develop, and surrounding yourself with good friends is a great way to boost your overall wellness.  We’ll remember the time we spent with our friends long after batteries run out, pieces get lost, or something breaks.

Good health and great happiness to you.

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