Birthday Lesson

Today is my daughter’s birthday. For many reasons it is an unusual year. We had to move and are no longer in our same neighborhood with all the families of previous years. We have had to make many decisions out of necessity and it trickles into the most mundane of choices. We also have friends from our previous church who practice the celebration of birthdays for their children by having one year include only family, the next year is a “friend” birthday party.

For this year, we have opted for the family only option. In my flesh as a mom, this was making me anxious. My daughter has only experienced the neighborhood gatherings of families we saw all the time and collected for various celebrations at one another’s homes. This year is different.

I had a gentle reminder from the birthday girl herself that birthdays are about celebrations of people and those they love. She awoke to her first bouquet of flowers and got to eat yogurt and a bagel off of the family birthday plate. She chose the meal for tonights dinner and afternoon activity. She has not once mentioned presents. She has not once asked for anything, rather with only the enthusiasm a preschooler can muster, has said “thank you” and “that’s just what I wanted!” at every turn.

Years ago my husband and I talked of a birthday tradition we learned in Ghana. For a child’s birthday, a celebration indeed takes place but it is a day focused on that child. He or she gets to choose the meal for that night, what game will be played or song sung. Each family member says something nice to the person and then there is a time of the child being specifically prayed for by the parents and God thanked for the family they now are.

My husband and I talked about how to incorporate more of this kind of approach to birthdays instead of piles of presents and a lot of money spent. Several things kept us from taking the plunge this direction. We happened to love our community and like to host events and what better time than to celebrate our children? We (mostly me) also like to find the perfect gift and I love seeing someone’s face when they get it. We also knew she was going to others parties and she was developing expectations.

I’d love to say our approach this year, to have it be a day of celebration for the gift God gave to us years ago, was intentional. While that may not be the case, it has become the result. We have talked often of all God has given to us as a family and what it means to use it wisely. We have laughed and played. We are all a lot less stressed and it has been a great family time!

Oh, and before you think too highly of me, we do have a few presents as well. She doesn’t know it yet and I look forward to that look on her face!

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About Amy Jacober

Amy Jacober (PhD, Fuller Seminary) is a youth ministry veteran with ministry and teaching experience. She focuses on practical theology, urban ministry, theology & disability, and marginalized communities. She is a volunteer youth worker in her church and community, lead consultant with Youth Ministry Architects and serves on the Young Life Capernaum national board. In her free time she can be found playing with her three young children, husband, and oversized dog.