Birthdays in Large Families: Lots o' Kids, Lots o' Fun

I love today's post, because it answers one of those questions we all have but we aren't usually brave enough to ask: how do families with lots of kids manage to celebrate all those birthdays without losing their ever lovin' minds? To answer that question, I recruited my friend Lora Lynn from Vitafamiliae, because not only is she one of my favorite people, but she is a birthday Ph.D. She and her husband Andrew have seven kids. That's a lot of birthday cake y'all. Without further ado, I turn this blog over to the expert. 

We celebrate nine, count them, NINE birthdays a year in this family. That’s a HEAP of celebrating. My husband and I are always evaluating and evolving in our Birthday Philosophy. And, oh yes, we do indeed have a Birthday Philosophy.

Because our family is so large, our policy is this: Other holidays? We celebrate as a family. And we’re usually pretty low-key about them. But Birthdays? Are all about the individual. So we blow it out big.

It’s easy for kids to feel lost in the shuffle when they’re part of a pack, so this is our way of guaranteeing them one day to revel in the spotlight. We think it’s important that our children have a day where the attention is theirs, the focus is on them, and the excitement and celebration is aimed in their direction.

It’s nice to feel like a rock star, right?

To that end, we make sure our kids begin their big day with some fun. Over the last few years, we’ve found various ways to fill their rooms with balloons or surprise them with streamers when they wake up. (We’re running out of pins on Pinterest for this. If you’ve got ideas for balloons in bedrooms, I’m all ears.)

The family crowds into their room to sing “Happy Birthday” while we’re all still in our jammies. (This harkens back to my memories of my own mother, who was notorious for marching around the backyard in her pajamas waving sparklers on her own birthday. My people, they like to celebrate.)

The child of the day gets to pick all the meals (lots of sugar guaranteed.) We pull out photo albums and reminisce and there’s always some sort of elaborate cake involved. I let them pick anything they want and I make it out of cake. Sometimes I get a little carried away.

But we’ve made a lot of hilarious cake-related memories in the process.

It’s not just parental attention they receive. The siblings lavish attention, as well. They do the honored child’s chores for them and give them first pick of everything all day long. It fosters relationships and gives them a chance to practice serving one another.

And, up until now, we’ve thrown the kids parties, very family-centric. We’ve never really invited just kids, we tend to invite entire families. We always say that we’re keeping it small by only inviting one or two families plus our immediate family but in our world - that adds up to 40 people.

This plan seems to work for our kids. They don’t have big expectations of us on other holidays, but they know for that one magical day each year, they’re guaranteed the lion’s share of our attention. In a family like ours, that’s quite possibly the best gift they’ll ever get.

And, if all our birthdays were properly spaced throughout the year, this would work beautifully.

Sadly, we didn’t come up with our Birthday Philosophy until after I’d given birth to the majority of these people. Poor planning on our part, clearly.

By the grace of God’s sense of humor, we have six birthdays in a four week time frame. By the time we’ve celebrated that sixth birthday, we are D.O.N.E. with birthdays. We never want to see cake again. I threaten to pop any balloon that dares to get in my line of sight. And we are seriously Unenthused about anyone else’s birthday for the rest of the year. The Birthday Month, as we call it, is killing our party mojo.

So this coming year, with our kids’ full support, we’re trying an experiment. The actual day of a child’s birthday? Is still all about them. We’ll muster up the balloons (please, people. I NEED new ideas), the meals of choice, the portion of the day where I don a kerchief and sing “Sunrise, Sunset,” the gifts, and the general lavishing of honor. But we won’t do the party.

Instead, because we do so love to throw a good party, the year of 2014 will be the year of One Single Biggest, Baddest Blow-out Ever.

We’ve decided as an incentive for all of us putting off our birthday parties, we’ll purchase a big family gift to ourselves. We’re thinking a movie projector. Then we’ll invite lots of people over for movies on the lawn, various types of popcorn, and one big bash to celebrate… well, Us. We’ll make it a Pinterest swoon-worthy party and the food will be out of this world. I’ll do some crazy cake (because I can’t help myself) and we’ll wear ourselves out with one gigantic effort rather than several small efforts.

Our party style may evolve and change over time, but our general philosophy on birthdays in our family hasn’t changed. We revel in the chance to celebrate the individuals that make us a whole. We would be utterly Not Us without the unique qualities of each character in our crowd. And each year we get to spend together? That’s worth some hoopla...

And we’ve got THAT in spades!

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