Instead of birthday presents for my kids, I asked my Mom if she would consider an alternative. This was the start of a fun family tradition that we call the “birthday experience”.
By the time my first two kids were toddlers it occurred to me that we needed to rethink the amount of toys that were coming into the house. Between birthdays, holidays, goody bags from parties, and the occasional kids meal prize, we were drowning in stuff. I was donating bags to the thrift store, and we were having conflicts over keeping their spaces picked up. But the worst is that they were just getting bored. The toys were not appreciated or cared for.
I remembered the stories my Mom told about her Grandmother taking her downtown to a tea room, teaching her manners, passing on special little pieces of jewelry, and speaking purpose into her life when she was a child. So I asked my Mom if she would consider an alternative instead of birthday presents: the gift of time.
We came up with the idea of a “birthday experience” with each grandchild. At the time, my sister and I had only two young ones each. Even then, getting one on one with each child allowed her to experience a different side of them than the busy and loud family get togethers with all of the kids.
Since there are a dozen grandkids now, that special one-on-one day is something that both she and the kids really cherish. Mom still does a modest gift to celebrate their birthdays, but they both look forward most to their birthday experience day.
The Birthday Experience
It usually goes down something like this:
Mippi and Poppi arrive to pick up the birthday child, who has already been asked what they’d like for dinner.
On the way to Mippi’s house, they swing by the grocery store, and Mippi buys them ridiculous amounts of junk food including: a dessert for that night, movie treats, and (most anticipated) a box of their favorite junky sugar cereal. Any leftovers are send home with the child and are “shared” (aka used as powerful bargaining agents for the next few days with siblings).
After their special dinner, they watch a movie or play a game.
The next day, after a big fun breakfast they choose something special to do together. They’ve done all sorts of fun stuff like going swimming in the lake, learning to drive a golf cart, having a special tea party, going horseback riding, taking a trip to the American Girl store, or having a pedicure. The boys have built junk hovercrafts, put together a model vehicle or airplane, gone to an air show, gone fishing or hiking, gotten ice cream, and toured cool junkyards.
All the while, Mom snaps lots of photos, and then she compiles them into a Birthday Book so the memories can be enjoyed again and again.
I’m so, so thankful to live close to both sets of grandparents, and for the blessing of having them in our lives to make these special memories. Even if you don’t have grandchildren that live close, I’d encourage you to make time with them one on one as you can, and soak up those times together.
What’s something special that you do one on one with each child in your life to make memories? Do you have special memories of time with your grandparents?