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A Responsibility & A Privilage: Birthday Traditions

Brother-Bug at his “friends” party. We were pirates.

Every family is full of birthday traditions. A special plate, a certain song, a pinch to grow an inch, specific cake recipe, a silly hat… These are how we know it is our birthday in our family. With the honors of six fresh in our consciousness, I thought you might be interested in some of our family traditions.

*The first thing we do on the birthday morning is tell that child’s Birth Story. We cuddle, connect, and remember the first time we met them.

*I write the child a letter, telling them what I have noticed in the past year of their growing and changing. Or I try to – sometimes it doesn’t get quite done by their birthday.

*We have a Happy Birthday Banner which I made for Brother-Bug’s first birthday. It has hung up for every birthday since, and one of the kids’ jobs during my labor in November will be to hang it up for the new baby.

The fabrics all came from our scrap bin – every one is from something special to our family.

*The birthday child gives a present to their sibling(s). We hope this lessens the drama from the sibling(s) jealous that it’s not their birthday, and helps the birthday child think of others, even on their special day.

*We divide their birthday celebrations in two. There is one party with friends – cake, games, and general kid-chaos ensues. There is one outing to a desert place where we celebrate with family – grandparent, aunts, uncles… And of course we celebrate all the birthday-through in our home as well. This keeps the mayhem of party-over-stimulation to a manageable level. The two are never on the same day and the guest list rarely overlaps. We came up with this after several “too big” birthday parties and it works wonderfully. With a loving community, and lots of family close by, it was really easy to spend a week or two celebrating – which ultimately wore our family out, including the birthday kid. This works better. I make sure I schedule the family event early enough that everyone can make it.

And the increasingly Favorite Tradition in our family, and the focus of this post: The Responsibility and Privilege.

*Starting around 3 or 4, they get a new Privilege and a new Responsibility. This is a favorite for Brother-Bug. As his birthday approaches, I often hear him speculating about what his Privilege & Responsibility will be.

Found inside The Card, a sign of growing.

In anticipation of the Big Day, Papa-Bug and I begin to pay close attention to what Brother-Bug is enjoying around the house and what he might be yearning for. We plan out a responsibility that will benefit Brother-Bug as he grows and learns.

The Responsibility is something he is now big enough to do to help out around the house. I’ve forgotten what his responsibility was when he turned four…I think it was something simple like clearing his dinner plate. At five he was given a cooking night – for one dinner each week he chooses the recipe and helps cook it. He’s been at it almost every week for the past year and he loves it. It’s a little extra work for the parent assisting, but he is contributing to our family and learning valuable skills. He takes this responsibility very seriously. This year we saw that, for whatever reason, he really enjoys dumping the laundry baskets. His new responsibility is to keep the household laundry baskets empty. He’s excited.

For the Priviege, he is given something that helps him celebrate his growing independence. At four he got to cross not-busy streets without holding hands. Last year he could choose his own computer time (with in a few stipulations – after teeth were brushed in the morning, not after 8:00 pm, etc.). This year he got an allowance – money that he can be in charge of. I will be writing more about the structure of his allowance in a future post, so stay tuned.

As it has turned out, the two are more mixed than we originally plan. The cooking is a favorite task that he hates to miss, and he has to use personal responsibility (getting his teeth brushed, and so on) to exert his privilege on the computer. It’s kind of like the real world that way.

Our hope is that the idea of earning both privilege and responsibility with age helps our kids understand these realities better – what else are driving, voting and drinking but the same general concept on a grander scale? As they grow, these ideas will grow with them. And right now it’s just so fun to see what new things the birthday kid gets to take on!

That’s a taste of some of our favorite birthday traditions. What does your family do?


4 responses »

  1. My sister used to make birthday posters for all of the members of our family. We always used to look forward to them because she is so creative and funny. I saved every last one of them.

  2. That is so fun! What a special thing to look back through as the years go by.

  3. Pingback: Allowance At Six « Another Day – Another Mom

  4. Pingback: Brother-Bug’s Day | Another Day - Another Mom

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