Tag Archives: birthday

Birthday Fail

Every few years (including the year he was born), my son’s birthday falls on Labor Day.  In Arizona, many families travel to escape the heat one last time before fall.  This year, several of my son’s friends left town for his birthday weekend.

Photo Credit: legaryphotography via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: legaryphotography via Compfight cc

Coupled with the fact he could not decide if he wanted to have a party or just have a few friends over, his actual birthday was less-than-exciting.  We ended up with family in town for much of the weekend, and my parents even came up on Sunday, brought cake, and we had a celebration with grandparents, his cousins (two boys my son just adores…one a year older and one a year younger), aunt and uncle, and a helium tank.

He was also able to play with a friend for most of the day of his birthday.  In all, he had fun.

But this was his last birthday before officially becoming a teenager.  The last year of innocence.

I am being dramatic…but you get the idea.

For next year, I have already decided how we will celebrate his 13th birthday.  It will be a father/son trip and will involve one of his favorite things…fishing.

I find I need to plan ahead and make decisions, or events will creep up and find me unprepared, or at least underprepared.

I would like to think his reaction to the lack of an official birthday gathering with friends was sincere.  He was not upset at all, but I suspect deep down he hoped for a party.

Let’s see if I can do better next year.

Have you ever felt like a failure in planning a party for your kids?  How did they react?

Keeping Friend’s Birthdays Simple

My son went to one of his friend’s birthday parties yesterday.  He had a fun-filled afternoon go kart racing and eating pizza with some of his best friends.

When I asked his friend’s mom about gift suggestions, I did not get much to go on, so my son decided to get him a gift card to his favorite video game store.  I agreed and proceeded to ask my son a very important question…

“Do you want to make your own birthday card or give him a gift card for five dollars less?”

My son did not hesitate, “I’ll make the card!”

Unknown artist...but it's awesome!

Unknown artist…but it’s awesome!

I watched my son take out a piece of paper from the printer, pull a Sharpie out of the drawer, and write a very simple birthday message with a strange looking face drawn on it.  Pleased with his work, my son folded it up, got an envelope and stuffed it in along with the gift card.  He licked it and wrote his friend’s name on the front…and for some reason he capitalized the first two letters and wrote the next two letters in lower case.  I have no clue why, and when asked, he did not either.

Whatever your thoughts on gift cards, we can all agree greeting cards cost way too much and most kids do not read them anyway.  So why not have your kid make a DIY card and save five bucks?  Either pocket the savings or apply it to the gift…either way, everyone is happy (except maybe Hallmark).

What low-cost or simple gift/card giving ideas work with your kids?


What My Son Got Me For My 46th Birthday

He gave me $10.

And I am fairly certain he re-gifted it to me.

We both have birthdays in September and his comes before mine.  One of his friends got him a bag of candy and a card with two $5 bills.

Photo by author

Photo by author

On my birthday, my son’s card to me contained two $5 bills.

Of course I thanked him and gave him a big hug.  Part of me felt guilty he gave me anything.  So, we had a conversation.

“Thanks for the money, bud!  I really appreciate it.  You know you didn’t have to get me anything,” I said.

“I know, dad, but I wanted to give it to you.”

“Do you like giving?”

My son replied, “I like giving more than getting.”

Not too many years ago for one of my son’s birthdays, he asked his friends to bring diapers and supplies for a local shelter instead of giving him a gift.  He took all the loot and we delivered it to  the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center.  I know the experience of delivering and meeting some of the women and children moved him deeply.

As dads, we do not always know if the lessons we teach sink in.  But sometimes, when we open up an “Awkward Family Photos” birthday card, we know they do listen.

What lesson have you taught and been surprised by how/when your kid responded?

Another Birthday…Already?? Making Memories Without Going Crazy

“When I was a kid…”

We have all said those words since having our own kids. My birthday parties in the 1970s and early 1980s seemed awesome – several friends came over to my house for some games and cake and ice cream. And I got presents – especially awesome in 1977 when the original Star Wars came out. The action figures made sweet gifts!

These parody action figures were created by Walt Crowley from Rancho Obi-Wan.

These parody action figures were created by Walt Crowley from Rancho Obi-Wan.

Now, many birthdays have become expensive two hour events at party factories – cycling in group after group for 75 minutes of play and 45 minutes of cardboard pizza, soda, cake and presents. All for a mere $300.


Some of you may have pockets full of Benjamins, but most of us try to watch our money closely.

So, how do we make awesome birthdays without destroying the budget and spending another two-hour block at the bounce house gymnasium?

1 – Ask your kid for two or three options.  You never know what they will come up with as options, and you may be pleasantly surprised they want a simple swim/video game/sleepover party at your home.  Granted, those can be exhausting, but make great memories.

2 – Budget for it…even if it is at a party factory.  No matter what, build birthday parties and gifts into your personal budget.  If you do not have a personal budget, set a goal to create one.  Little things at parties can become quite expensive…one time I tried to make fancy gift bags for 15 kids and just about went broke buying cheap plastic crap.

3 – Come up with a DIY party at home.  So, pretend your kid does not come up with any great or realistic ideas.  Make up your own themed party.  For boys – nothing beats water balloon and shaving cream fights in the back yard (or the yard of a good friend or relative).  For girls – buy some cake mix and have them do cupcake decorations and then rent a karaoke machine.  This process also helps you learn more about your kid’s interests.

4 – Plan a one-on-one event.  One year my son kept asking me to take him fishing.  So, I surprised him with a fishing trip and told him it would replace his 8th birthday party.  We have some incredible memories and he never missed having a party – instead we both got some amazing quality time and some great fish stories to tell.  This could end up costing some money, so do not forget to budget for it.

This year, we celebrated my son’s 11th birthday with family in the mountains and had a small gathering the following weekend with a couple of his buddies.  Again, we shared many memories from both events and managed to keep spending under control.

What unique spin on the usual birthday party do you want to try this year?

Make Sure Your Kids Celebrate Their Mom’s Birthday

My son spends both my birthday and my ex’s birthday with me.  He is young enough to have limited ability or interest to keep track of any more than his birthday, Christmas, and whether or not it is Friday so he does not have to go to school the next day.

I felt badly waking up on my birthday this year and casually telling my son what day it was.  He felt badly he did not know and gave me a big hug.

Photo Credit: Robots are Stupid via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Robots are Stupid via Compfight cc

We do not have family in town to remind him to make me a card (no glitter please…I hate that stuff) or wake me up to a cheery rendition of “Happy Birthday” at the crack of dawn.  And I am OK with that, although I am sure there is a better way.

But what to do with my ex’s birthday?  Despite the physical and emotional distance between the two of us, making sure my son knows about her birthday and making sure he sends a card and speaks with her must be a priority.

I have no interest in spending money on my ex, but the cost of a card or supplies to make a card (including glitter if he wants to send her some) is worth every penny.  Me reminding him about mom’s birthday allows him to connect with her and not feel tension he may experience at other times.  It helps maintain an emotional connection and allows for positive interaction between the two of them.

So, here is what I recommend:

  • Set a calendar reminder about one week before your ex’s birthday.  That gives you enough time to go with your kid to pick out a card or gather the supplies to make one for her.
  • Do not dictate the message.  Let the card be 100 percent from your kid – mom’s know what words are theirs and which ones are yours.
  • Make sure your kid calls or FaceTimes mom on her birthday.  Let him know you recognize it is an important day – just like his and yours.

You will see benfits to doing this:

  • You will gain trust with your kid.  He understands something painful happened between you and mom, and knows you actively engage him with significant events in mom’s life.
  • You may see improved co-parenting because this fosters trust and appreciation with your ex.  Can’t hurt…might help.
  • You may encourage reciprocal actions on the part of your ex.

We all need to heal from our divorces.  Holding on to anger and disappointment does not allow for healing.  Channeling our anger through our kids harms everyone, so find a way to have them acknowledge and celebrate important events in your ex’s life.

How do you celebrate your birthday with your kids?