Before I married Eric, he told me that he wanted birthdays to be a BIG DEAL in our home. When I was growing up, birthdays were special – but not monumental. When I was young, we would have a family party at the house. When I turned eight, I had my first big birthday party at the YMCA. ~smile~ At fourteen, I had a slumber party; sixteen, family and friends came over.
I always had a celebration, but sometimes it was just Mom, Dad, and me. I do not feel deprived and I do not think birthday parties are something kids inherently deserve. It is great when they happen, but kids who come from loving homes usually do not end up in their therapist’s offices crying because they did not have enough birthday parties.
Eric’s birthday experiences were similar. He did not have a lot of big parties, but his birthday was always acknowledged within his immediate family. One tradition he wanted to change when he married and started a family was making birthdays a big deal. Not necessarily having a huge party for every birthday, but making sure each member of the family felt incredibly special on their special day. I was on board for that. ~smile~
The First Birthday
The first birthday Eric had after we became an official couple, I went all out – at least, by my standards. I started working on it months in advance. He was turning 28, so I bought 28 gifts – one to represent each year of his life. For example, I bought a gift you would give a one-year old, another gift you would give a two-year old, another gift you would give a three-year-old, etc. all the way up to a gift you would give a twenty-eight-year-old. In retrospect, I bought a lot of junk… but it was fun!
I wrote him a poem and put a number at the end of each line. So he opened each gift which corresponded with that line of the poem, in order. He was like a little kid. He organized the gifts from 1 to 28 and then happily ripped into them. It was worth all the shopping, wrapping, and writing when I saw the giddy look on his face (Eric is a kid at heart ~smile~).
The rest of the day was filled with some of his favorite foods, a movie he wanted to see, and time with another friend. I fell asleep before the day ended from all the running around I had done to make the day perfect.
And On We Go…
His next two birthdays were fun too. Since then, we’ve still celebrated, but not quite to the same extent as the effort I put into the first one. Thankfully, we’ve also learned a lot about each other since then. Now I know that Eric prefers to spend time with a group of people on his birthday and I prefer a quiet dinner with him and then maybe something else with a small group of friends. Learning each other’s likes and dislikes has greatly aided the birthday planning experience.
For example, even though I have told Eric for years how much I do not like surprises – the kind that require extraverted energy (e.g., surprise parties) – he somehow knew that, deep down, I wanted a big to do for my 30th birthday. A few days before my big ‘3-0’, I walk into a room full of people yelling, “Surprise!” My heart was pounding (I’m not terribly good at being the center of attention… I’m usually the girl in the corner talking to one or two people). Just as I started to settle down, my parents walked in. You would’ve thought I had not seen them in years. I yelled, “Dad!” and ran to hug him sobbing. (And Mom, if you’re reading this, I would’ve hugged you first but Dad walked in before you. ~smile~)
Your Next Birthday
Ah, birthdays. You can make some great memories with some effort. How do you want birthdays to be handled in your family when you get married? Do you want to minimalize them and just have a cake and a few gifts? Do you want to have a party for every birthday in the family each year? Do you prefer a big party instead of a lot of gifts, or vice versa?
Talk to your sweetheart about his or her vision for future birthdays. Find out what he or she wants now so there are no hurt feelings and misunderstandings later when the first ones roll around. I am so glad to know that Eric wants birthdays to be a big deal in our home. If he had not told me, I would have followed along the path I was used to which included a small-scale celebration (i.e., just him and me) with a gift or two.
How sad it would have been to find out fifteen years later that he had hoped for more attention on his special days. So, talk about your hopes and expectations and do your best to make your sweetie feel like a million bucks on his or her big day!
What does the perfect birthday celebration look like to you?