Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The birthdays and the budget



How do you make someone feel special? It's a question I turned over in my mind incessantly, in anticipation of celebrating my son and daughter's birthdays.

Last weekend my little ones turned six and eight.  This was an exciting year for them, because it was the first time they'd host a party with friends, a generous gift from Nana.  No doubt it would be a fabulous time playing, laughing and making memories with friends.

But what would I give? How could I make my children feel special and loved on a suffocatingly tight budget?

After much debate, I hatched my plan.  It was simple, but I'm learning not everything in life has to be complex.  Simple can be refreshing and beautiful.  That's what I wanted.

The day before the birthdays, I went to Target to buy bags of balloons in the kids' favorite colors. I bought construction paper, candles, and cake mix, too.  I rushed home and tested my breathing techniques and finger strength: I blew up a zillion balloons, tied them, and hid them in the basement.  Late that night, I sneaked into their rooms and flooded them with bubbles of color as they slept. Then I hung my homemade birthday banners (admittedly ugly) on their chairs at the kitchen table.

During the day, we cleared the table and the kids each mixed, baked, and decorated their own cakes.  They planned their designs, colored their icing, and decorated their cakes with gusto.  The level of concentration rivaled any standardized testing room.  They worked for hours.


I'm not going to lie.  I worried my contribution to my children's birthdays would feel insignificant, mostly because it seemed so little to me.  But here's the thing about kids.  The price tag on a celebratory event is insignificant to them.  The look of glee on their faces, as they bounded out of bed into my pit of balloons, told me to stop focusing on the financials and simply pour my heart into the activities I plan for them.

That night, as I put my daughter to bed, she snuggled me close and told me she'd stowed the hideous banner I'd crafted in her dresser drawer.  "I never want to forget this day," she whispered.  In the end, it was a fabulous birthday weekend, because my kids closed their days knowing they were special and loved.  That's all a parent wants, right?

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