Birthdays and Parties – A Simplified Outlook Part 1:

Our sweet Leo will be turning 2 next month.

Confession:  I have yet to do birthday “parties” for either one of our boys where invitations were sent, neither via an e-vite nor snail mail.  In today’s parenting culture, from time to time I do feel a bit reluctant to admit that it is actually not something we are very proactive with.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party, have people over to our house, preparing delicious meals, the sharing and the connection . It is the over-the-top, the more the merrier kind of parties that make me think twice.

Now that I am more aware of my own childhood, as I look back I realize birthdays were not such a big deal in my family.  Partly it is because my birthday is on Christmas Eve (Church and Jesus took center stage) .  Mostly it was because everyone was just too busy.  It was remembered and a family dinner was prepared or dining out was scheduled.  I was not modelled on how a good kids birthday party was thrown.  As I got older, and went to other people’s birthday parties, I didn’t recall having that much of a good time.  It was usually frenzied, chaotic, noisy and rushing to get the candles and cake part done – and then the presents.  It was always tearing out the wrapping and trying to get through the pile before anyone can take a breath.  There was never any order to these parties and it often just felt messy to me.

As our youngest boy will be turning 2 in a month, the idea of “to have or not to have” a birthday party has been circling my thoughts.  The first thing I always ask myself is:

“If we are going to have a birthday party, is it going to be a party for me (the adults) or is it going to be for the little ones?”

Leland1stBdayCake

For Leland’s first birthday 3 years ago, I made a rich dark chocolate cake for just us (the grandparents and the two of us) to enjoy.  We did have candles and I did put his name on the cake and we even took photos of him watching us blow out the candle.  It was truly simple and sweet.  We knew that Leland would not remember this particular birthday but the photos will show him that it was important, acknowledged and celebrated.  We didn’t at all feel the pressure of having a big shindig, in fact we felt it was quite authentic to our own (developing) family culture.

Leo1stBdayCake

For Leo’s first birthday last summer, it was a bit different.  Since the older brother was 3 and much more aware, we decided to do a simple birthday breakfast with just the 4 of us.  We made a blueberry pancake tower and sang a few songs.  It felt as though it was Leland that enjoyed the experience the most.  For him, it was all about the candles, lighting them and blowing them out.  There were no presents, except for a birthday ring that had photos of Leo throughout the year and ONE wood decoration on the ring.

So far my goal it still trying to keep birthdays and celebrations as genuine and simple as we can.  While they grow to become more aware of their own birthdays, so will I in regards to how I will be carving out our own kind of birthday traditions.  My goal is to be part of developing with them a healthy, meaningful and heartfelt outlook with their own birthdays as well as the birthdays of their loved ones.

The Big Picture

Beach Combing

The fact is our parenting journey goes by so fast.  During the early years, the days may feel so long but the years are short.  Now that we are a little over four years into this phase of our lives, we are finding time is speeding by faster than ever before.  We just blinked and our first boy will be five this year.

Recently, I stumbled upon this Podcast by Jack Petrash, an author, a parent/teacher educator, a master Waldorf Teacher and the founder and director of the Nova Institute.  This Podcast was a talk he did a few years ago about the basic overview of his book Navigating the Terrain of Childhood” – A Guidebook for Meaningful Parenting and Heartfelt Discipline.  His talk was one of the most beautiful rendition of the big picture of the parenting journey that I’ve ever heard in less than 60 minutes.  It was so simple, earnest and heartfelt as well as moving and exquisitely descriptive using the metaphor of a road trip through the United States, starting in the east coast from North Carolina to the west coast ending in California.

My heart was so full by the end his talk, my eyes were filled with tears that streamed down with overwhelming knowledge these beautiful years of wonderment with our boys will just fly by.  It is not like we don’t know this – that children will grow up fast – but it was how he told this story, almost like a fairytale that made this talk so different than all the other ways it had been presented to me before.  It was so moving and most of all inspiring.  It has inspired me to become even more conscious that I feel I already am, and to live in the present with even more conviction that I will not take ANY moment with my boys for granted.  I want to be able to be real and truthful with them with as much clarity as I possibly can.  I just want to be there, with eyes wide open.   I’m not here just to serve them and help them grow, I am doing this for Vince and myself too!

I’m not sure who will stumble upon this post, but if you are reading this and you have children then I would strongly recommend listening to this wonderful gem.  It will open your heart and your mind to see the humanity of all our journeys, it will add some more depth to the way you see the world and your children and most of all, yourself.

I would love to hear your feedback and listen to your thoughts on this.

With much affection,

Grace

A technical note on the Podcast:  It is divided into 11 Segments and they are not arranged in chronological order, so you will need to select each one as you go along.  Also, the time stamp of these segments are incorrect, each Segment is only about 5 minutes long so don’t be taken that this is going to be a long drawn-out lecture.