Jakie turned twelve—and, much to his joy--it was the birthday that never ended! I tried to drag it out, take him to breakfast the day before, take him shopping to let him choose his toy, go to grandparents’ close to the actual day, have his grown siblings over, talk about it a lot, have Dad fix birthday breakfast, etc. as Jacob had been having a lonely time with his three next older siblings all gone that particular week.
When we asked him what he wanted to do for this birthday, he said two things: (1) play basketball with a group of people in a gym (still working on that one); and (2) have all of his siblings (who were not gone this summer) over and do things together. We are doing the latter this afternoon. His two married siblings and their spouses, our missionary daughter who is home itinerating, and Josiah (our fifteen year old) will all be there.
When Jacob said he wanted everybody here for his birthday, he wasn’t talking about presents (we don’t do sibling gift exchanges for birthdays) or even outings/activities. He was referring to the birthday affirmations he would receive.
As our kids have grown up, we have used birthdays, successes in different things, etc. to teach our kids to affirm each other. Besides our normal, “Three cheers for _______. Hip hip hooray. Hip hip hooray. Hip hip hooray,” we often have times in which we just affirm the person—tell the good qualities that we appreciate in that person. Yes, the “affirmed one” is often embarrassed and a little shy—but these affirmations have come to mean so much to the one receiving them (thus, Jacob’s desire to have “everyone here like we used to”).
I think this type of thing is one of the reasons Kevin Leman recommends in one of his books that birthdays be spent at home together—not in large group parties or out on the town. While you can certainly have a peer party or family outing for a birthday, we recommend that you take the time at home around the birthday child’s special day to affirm and encourage the celebrant.
Tomorrow I will give a list (of course!) of birthday affirmation ideas. In the meantime, birthday or not, go tell one of your kids one thing you love about him or her….you will be glad you did.