There is a common thing you see in the world of minimalism when it comes to celebrating birthdays and it pretty much goes like this: Give experiences, not things.
That’s really great advice except for one thing… kids like gifts. That doesn’t mean you have to give kids everything they like. But on a day all about a specific person, it is nice to do what the person likes.
Yesterday was my daughter’s thirteen birthday. Thirteen is a milestone. She’s now a teenager! That’s pretty epic for her and for me. After all, she is my baby… and I now have two teenagers. Time has zoomed by!
My husband and I both come from families that didn’t do huge birthday celebrations. In both of our experiences, birthdays were special, intimate, small events. I think that the way we approach birthdays has a lot to do with that. We’ve never seen the need to gather tons of people, have big events, hire entertainers, buy tons of gifts, and all that other stuff you so often see.
We keep it small. And that’s ok. But even in keeping it small, we do buy gifts and celebrate.
Since the kids were old enough to have solid opinions on their own entertainment, we have implemented what we call the birthday weekend. We allow the kids to pick activities of their liking, a cake or other treat of their choosing, and a special dinner or restaurant outing that they want.
We also buy gifts. Birthdays are limited to three gifts. We are a four person family so that means there is a gift from each other person. It’s plenty, and it makes things just a bit more special.
Becoming a teenager is a pretty awesome event. For her thirteenth birthday, my daughter asked me to make her a strawberry flavored cake with homemade frosting (something I’m actually good at making) and to cover it with “a ton of sprinkles”.
She loved her cake. I used an entire jar of star-shaped sprinkles to cover it. The delight on her face was something I will never forget. It doesn’t take much to make a kid happy – especially a kid like her.
Because it was a such special birthday, we added some balloons to the mix. We generally don’t decorate, but how could you not add pizazz on the thirteenth?! She loved her balloons!
For presents, we got her a video game she had been wanting (my girl is quite the gamer!) and two small stuffed things that she loves. My parents came over and she also received a gift from them – some cute summer clothes.
For her weekend activity, my daughter simply wanted to go to the park. Yep, that’s it. She just wanted to play. Last year, she asked to go to a trampoline park, and the year before that was Build-a-Bear.
For dinner, she asked me to make fettuccine Alfredo. It was tasty!
Keeping Things Minimal
The reason I’m sharing all this is because it didn’t take a lot to make my daughter happy. Kids are pretty easygoing. I often think it is parents who make events like birthdays bigger than they need to be. A few special gifts, a fun activity, and some tasty eats are enough to make my kids smile.
I know that it wasn’t all just experience, but a few gifts don’t hurt. In total, she received four gifts – and all were items she loves, will keep for a long time, will use, and will cherish.
I’m incredibly proud of the daughter I am raising. As she enters her teen years, her mind, heart, and attitude are all right where they need to me. What do I mean by that? Well, here is a conversation that happened as my parents were leaving the house…
My mom said something to the effect of, “I’m glad you like your gifts. Naming what you will like for your birthday is hard…. ‘I don’t know, I’m not sure, whatever, anything is good…’.”
And my daughter replied with, “That’s because I am content with what I have.”
And she meant it!