Birthday parties have always been a given to me. A privileged given.
Growing up our birthdays were a big deal, and there was always a party. Hawaiian Luaus, pool parties, tea parties, slumber parties. Along with the family gathering there was always a gaggle of girls and boys in our backyard singing Happy Birthday to me.
As an adult I still have birthday parties for myself.
Nothing major, maybe a group of friends goes out to dinner. Or we throw a barbecue out on the deck. But my birth is always commemorated with a celebration, and an ice cream cake.
Party Like It’s His Birthday
This year my son Jack turns 4.
For his first birthday party we had a smash cake and Little Blue Truck decorations. His second birthday was held at a kid’s gym with firefighter hats for all. For his third birthday a dozen kids sled down the hill in our yard thanks to a perfectly timed snow storm.
But this year, Jack doesn’t want a birthday party.
Instead, he wants a whole day with Mommy and Daddy. Just the three of us while his sister goes to daycare. He has big plans for the day. We’ll go to the movie theater that serves lunch, and then after we’ll go to the indoor play park. When we come home we’ll play cars. When we pick up Norah at the end of the day he wants to eat at a restaurant. Maybe the 99 he says, because he thinks they have milkshakes.
I offered to Jack that we could have a party with his friends AND a Mommy, Daddy, and Jack day, but he wasn’t interested. “We can go down to Mamoo and Pop Pop’s house that weekend instead. I’d like to hang out with them. And we’ll eat some cake.”
Are You Sure?
For about a month I kept asking him the same question “Are you sure you don’t want a party?”
Birthday party invitations from his classmates kept rolling into my inbox and he wanted to go to each party. He splashed around at pool parties, jumped on bouncy houses, and ran around indoor play parks. Jack consistently had a blast, and the highlight was always the birthday cake.
I was worried that he was going to turn to us a day before his birthday and ask “So, when are my friends coming over?” But no. He genuinely doesn’t want a party of his own. As long as he can still eat cake.
While I’m no Queen of Pinterest, I do enjoy hosting parties and getting people together so this whole “not having a birthday party” thing has thrown me off way more than him. I mean, it’s a nice gift for me honestly because an afternoon at the movie theater requires far less pre-planning and baking than a party. But still, it felt weird…
An Extra-Ordinary Birthday Gift
That is it felt weird until I realized that we could pay his birthday party forward. We could have our cake, eat it too, and share some of that cake with others.
With money that we are saving by not having a birthday party for Jack, we are going to have a fun day for the family, and the rest of that money will be donated to Extra-Ordinary Birthdays.
Extra-Ordinary Birthdays is a nonprofit organization that puts together custom birthday parties for homeless children. The birthday parties that I was so fortunate to have growing up are a luxury, a dream, to children growing up without what many of us consider “the basics.” Extra-Ordinary Birthdays believes that every child deserves to know that their birthday is special and helps to create those lasting memories. Volunteers work with families and the community to make a child smile, and I can’t think of a better goal to work towards.
On December 14, the Extra-Ordinary Birthdays headquarters, usually filled with volunteers and party supplies, was instead filled with flames at the hands of an arsonist. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the building was a total loss. Extra-Ordinary Birthdays, an organization that relies on donations, needs them now more than ever to continue their mission.
Happy Birthday To You
So, my sweet 4 year old, you won’t be having a birthday party this year. There won’t be goody bags on our counter or a half dozen pizza boxes in the recycling bin. But you bet your bottom dollar we are going to have an amazing day. We’ll laugh, and explore, and spend the time together that so often slips away.
And the gift of your birthday, and the gift of this day together, will be paid forward to a child in need. A child to whom a birthday party is not a given. That’s because of you.
Jack, you are wise beyond your years. I love you to the moon and back.