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This year for Evelynn’s fourth birthday, I quietly tucked my Pinterest brain aside and opted for a birthday based on experiences versus a party. This was helped along by the fact that we’re in the midst of a pandemic but I’m not going to lie, I still had the urge to spend $500 on presents, cake, pizza and unicorn décor because I was afraid I wasn’t being a good mom if I “deprived” my little one of all those things.
Now first, let me start off with saying- there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with birthday parties and having things. I know some will read this and immediately get defensive. Parents, life is hard enough without taking on the guilt of the world- LET. IT. GO. (I hope you all began to hum our favorite Disney song). I am not judging you, I am not telling you you’re doing it wrong, I am sharing my experience with the hope that it helps someone, somewhere.
Now that you’ve read my disclaimer, you should know that we will, most likely, still have some future birthday parties and we certainly have things (though much less than what we had before). Things are not inherently bad, an obsession of having things is quite unhealthy. This combined with the connection of things to self-worth is what I worry about. And with the constant barrage of targeted ads, I know I must be purposeful in helping my daughter to not fall prey to forming a materialistic driven mentality.
So for this year, I made the conscious decision to start teaching Evie about a different side of celebrations, one that focuses on time spent together and rich experiences. Dr. Gilovich, a Cornell professor, has claimed, “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them,”. I believe this mentality starts at a young age and keeps growing from there. This is clearly demonstrated by the two month old toy laying out in the elements gathering rust. Where do they learn this from? Well… that’s the doozy, go look in a mirror. We, as parents are responsible for teaching our children to respect the items they have (leading by example) and to ensure they do not become desensitized to a world full of stuff.
The fact of the matter is, as a tiny lifer we are limited in space so the idea of adding a shit ton of toys into the mix was not appealing or viable. However, I didn’t want this to detract from the excitement and importance of a birthday. Then one night I remembered a college mate telling me of her birthday experiences. Rather than a party, her parents would surprise her with a trip. Over the years she had visited different beaches, countries and (of course) Disney Land. I loved all the beautiful memories she had of her and her parents sharing in these experiences.
Pulling on inspiration from my friend’s stories, I began to plan a week-long celebration for Evelynn’s birthday. Yes, there were some small gifts mixed in but the FOCUS wasn’t on gifts- it was on experiences and quality time as a family. Below are some high lights of what we did to make our little one feel like a queen for a week.