Lessons From Our 242 Birthday Celebrations!

July 2nd is the birthday of some very notable people; among them, Thurgood Marshall, Ron Silver and Jose Canseco. But in the Pritchard home, July 2nd is Kelli’s birthday (and no, I won’t tell you which one it is!). I will tell you, since we’ve been married, combined with our children, we’ve celebrated 242 birthdays!!! Along the way, we’ve learned a few things and I’d like to pass some of them on to you.

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  • Life is a gift from God – ok not exactly earth shattering news, but as you reach each new milestone personally, you realize what a precious gift each day is. You also learn to never take another year for granted!
  • People make the day special – I tried to think back to gifts I’ve been given over the years. It’s scary how few I can remember after having over 50 birthday parties! However, the relationships I’ve developed over those same 50+ years are what make life so sweet.
  • Invite who you want to invite – this one might not affect most of you. But we learned early on, we had to give permission for people to invite whichever of our kids they wanted to. I think some were afraid if they invited one then they had to invite the lot! This isn’t a lesson specifically tied to birthdays, but it seems to be a lesson highlighted during birthday celebrations. What happens when someone gets invited to the party and someone else doesn’t? To avoid this today you aren’t even allowed to hand out birthday invitations at school. I know kids can be mean and we should do all we can to prevent that… but we’ve lost the ability to be happy for someone else unless we get the same thing. Parents have been known to take their child to the public amusement park where the party is being held because their kid wasn’t invited. We’ve tried to use birthdays and specifically celebrations to be another place where we teach our kids to be excited for the one receiving the blessing… especially if I’m not getting the same thing. It’s been a hard lesson at times for our kids.
  • You are special – again not earth shattering, but we try to make sure the birthday boy/girl knows they are special. Little things during the day help… breakfast in bed if possible, we have a red plate that says, “I’m Special”, they get to pick their favorite meal for dinner, or we’ll try to do something as a family they want to do. Kelli loves getting her nails done and going for a walk.
  • Say no to birthday wars – at the risk of sounding judgmental we chose to take ourselves out of any type of birthday competition. When our niece got picked up in a limousine, we knew from a practical sense if not a philosophical sense we were out. There is nothing wrong with extravagant birthdays and we feel blessed when one of our kids gets invited. We just had to practice what we preached… it wasn’t a competition and we would be happy for those who were able to do more than us.
  • Words of affirmation – perhaps the most important thing we do takes place right after dinner (the one they chose!). Normally after dinner we go around and everyone shares one good thing from their day. On birthdays, we go around and everyone has to share something they love or appreciate about the birthday boy/girl. You might have to prep the younger ones… otherwise there can be a very awkward silence after you ask the question, “What do you love about Johnny?” This particular practice has become even more special as our kids have gotten older. Our adult children now Skype in to add their thoughts to the after dinner pronouncements.

Lastly may I take advantage of my audience and say how grateful I am for the person whose birthday we are celebrating in our home. She has been such an incredible partner and friend. I wish I could take her to Hawaii for her birthday, she deserves it. Instead I know she’ll love being reminded she’s a gift from God, special to us, and being affirmed by her family. By the way, the dinner she chose was Black Angus… of course it might be because we have a gift certificate! I can’t wait to hear all the affirmations her kids will have for her.