as parents, we are trying to navigate the world of birthday parties: for our own kids and for attending other kids' parties. how many kids should we invite: the whole class or only those who live in our compound? what parties do we attend: do we avoid the parties at very odd venues and only go to those at a compound clubhouse/villa? after talking to a trusted mom on this issue (her children are a bit older then ours), it seems that this is the stage of larger parties (if you choose to have them). as children grow up and develop closer friendships, parties become smaller and a bit more low-key. in a matter of years, there will be less.
in light of that, i thought hard about why i've loved having large birthday parties for my girls these past few years. this is a collection of my reasons and it's not a list of why YOU should have large parties for your children. it's true that for sophia's fifth birthday i pinned ideas (using pinterest) to a specific board titled, "sophia's birthday." it's true that i used many of those ideas, and many of my own ideas created by my new-found adobe illustrator skills. i planned about a month-out prepping for the party. it's true that we invited her whole class and many of the children in our compound to come.
so, i had a large, "pinterest-y" party for my five year old.
that's been the case for her birthdays and for each of audrey's birthdays.
1. it's a lot of work, it takes a lot of planning, but for me, it's fun! it's my creative outlet-- there is something exhilarating when creating party decorations and designing the atmosphere for the party. besides that, it's pretty darn hard to find the precise decorations here in doha. so a big part of it is imagining and tapping into that artistic side of mine. which leads me to my second point...
2. when a party is designed specifically for my children, they are at the center. they are special and important and i want them to feel celebrated! sure, they don't need handmade party decorations or party activities for that to happen, i know. but what isn't magical about walking into a room full of gigantic rainbows and clouds? again, as they grow up, they won't want those things, and i can learn to think and create for their parties on a smaller-scale.
and what seems to be the prime reason behind these larger parties...
3. i want my children to have something similar to what i had as a child.
growing up, we regularly had large extended birthday gatherings throughout the year with my dad's side of the family. we lived in close proximity to them and it was common to get together. presents would be exchanged. cousins would play fun games together. good food (along with pickled herring) would be eaten. even in our nuclear family, i remember doing larger-scale parties (not all the time of course). having four siblings, there were built-in party attendees too. roller-rink parties, sleep-over parties, sledding parties, and pool parties were among the normal party scene for my siblings and i. things weren't crazy off-the-wall, but my mom and dad put in the effort to make it memorable and fun. in a family of 7, it was so nice to be the center-of-attention for a day!
fast-forward to my life as a new mom and my first daughter's first birthday. we lived 12 hours away from our families, but on her first birthday, our house was packed and over-flowing with friends and love. our blessed little community in pittsburgh came to be with us and celebrate with us our daughter's life. it filled my heart. we have lots of pictures. ben's brother and his wife joined us for the party and for the weekend, and i will never forget the generous gift of their presence.
and so large parties became the thing we did. it was hard to not invite all of these amazing people who had become our family and who wanted to celebrate our daughter too.
and then we moved further away and began to build another community in doha. two months into our life over here, audrey had her first birthday. and even though it was special and we had a few sweet people over to celebrate, i was heart-broken. no one around that table had known her since her birth. they were so kind to come, but we didn't really know them either at that point. i held back heavy tears as we sang happy birthday to audrey knowing that there were only a few, unfamiliar voices singing along.
at the same time over here in doha, i learned how much love i have for our little family of four (five including tozer). we were pioneers without the roots of a biological family or the roots of a spiritual family. we ventured on our own and with that comes the possibility of smaller birthday parties (that was a natural connection, right?)! i believe that because of the decision to move away from our families, the way we celebrate birthdays and holidays together will hold so much more meaning and bring us ever so closely together. that was the positive trade-off.
a week before sophie's party there was something in my johnson family that triggered this obvious thought: my children have never once celebrated their birthdays with their grandparents, and only once, for one child, with an aunt and uncle present.
and because that family situation triggered the thought, and the fact that i had an almost-five-year-old, i broke down in tears.
and i don't even know if there ever will be large family birthdays for my kids the way that i remember them from my family growing-up.
and i had been okay with that. and i'm still okay with that (after drying the tears though). we adopted loving friends as family. we invited lots of school mates and neighbors as stand-ins for cousins and aunts and uncles.
and one more reason for the large parties...
4. i see these birthday parties, lively and full of good, energetic love as what must have happened on the nights my girls were born. the angels and God in heaven were delighted both Sophia and Audrey came to be with us. there was so much rejoicing not only on this earth when we received them, but in the heavenly realms. so, that grand occasion of a birthday celebration at the clubhouse (or wherever), yup, that's the tip of the iceberg when it comes to experiencing how much our heavenly Father celebrates us! and i tell them that.
so go ahead with your small, "un-pinteresty" party for your children. that's completely fine for you. it's what you believe and have the energy for.
i firmly believe that the depth of each party for sophie and audrey will get smaller throughout the following years. so until she just begs me to drop her off at the movie theater with her best friend as a way to celebrate her birthday, i will continue to show her how important her birth is to us. i will throw her a party that says, "kid, you're special and we love to celebrate you! so glad you're in this world!"
so party-on my daughters at your birthday parties! they were designed for you, with love, from your mama, hung in place by your sweet dad!