Our family has been hosting a summer pool party celebrating our twin’s birthday, well since their first birthday. The tradition has ALWAYS included my friends and my children’s friends. When they were younger I would cast a super wide net and invite all my friends and hope for some overlap. Note: this gets trickier with time. These days I defer to the kids on their friend groups and am mindful to be sensitive of taut friendship “transitions.” That said, a certain group is without a doubt firmly entrenched and has not missed a gathering since the kids turned 7. I would like this tradition to continue ad infinitum.
The difference with this tradition vs. other traditions is that while the act of gathering remains the same – how the party gets sliced and diced is ever evolving along with the ages of our children. While it wasn’t the goal, it is mighty useful to have this annual occasion where I have to sit and ponder what is the right kind of party for each specific age. Who are my children now and how do we best orchestrate the gathering of the group to maximize their and our enjoyment? What a gift to have a built in marker that forces me to consider their new habits or interests while still slyly stoking them to embrace being children and that, that, is the secret to choreographing a successful and respectful celebration.
Respectful is a key word here and a key word for our parenting style. At every juncture my husband and I as parents strive to respect our children as humans that are evolving from childhood to adulthood at varying paces. We want to hear them when they have an opinion and we need for them to know that we will consider their sides because they have a voice. Don’t squelch the voices. Voices need to be heard. If voices know they will be heard, they will get stronger and more confident with time. And they will continue to freely converse with you when they need to the most. People need a voice, but my voice digresses…
So what do 14 year olds at a mixed age birthday gathering need? Two things: a whole lot of space and a whole lot of crowd pleasing food. In the past, all of the gathering areas at our parties contained mixed age groups. Kids were strewn about the property intermingling with other kids and adults. This year we segregated things quite a bit. We gave the teens and their multi age friends (from 4 to 16) the pool (with one adult perched nearby for a second set of eyes) and free reign of the yard.
We sequestered the adults in the shade of our handy lower porch. This way the kids felt they had the freedom to hang and be teens and all that entails, while the adults lounged and relaxed and enjoyed the afternoon in a relatively kid free environment.
It was almost like two different, but concurrent, parties. Consistent with the year before, this gathering was considered “our best party yet.” Decorations were minimalistic – we brought furniture from the indoors outside to create a space with maximum comfort for the adults. There were no games, no entertainment, and no real theme (except for the pizza shaped pool floats). The barely there theme was provided by the food, which was a massive kid and adult crowd pleaser. Bring on the Pizza Truck! And that was it. (Click the blue link to read about that rolling party of fun.)
The term aging out makes me sad. I am grateful that with the summer birthday and some time spent pondering how to best celebrate it, we have maintained the birthday tradition for our children into their teen years. With luck and proper consideration I hope they will not age out of celebrating the day they were born with their parents. It was a big day – for them and us! And what’s not to celebrate about that?
Grab your group and celebrate… always and often, for as long as you can.
I love your advice about kids having a voice and respectful parenting. Some of the adults in my extended family tend to side on “kids should be seen not heard” style of parenting and I find this difficult. It’s as if their likes/dislikes/opinions have no weight at all. It’s so different from how I think about kids, mine or otherwise.
Thank you Stacy! And totally agree with you. I have had the comment said to me that I give my kids “too much of a voice” or let them “wield too much power” but I think both of these things empower them to be stronger adults once they leave this little stage of our family. Sometimes their opinions are off the mark – for sure – but that’s what frank family discussions are for. And it’s nice for them to have a safe place to make mistakes, learn, and move on. Love seeing your kids grow up – they are all smiles and engaged – so keep on doing what you are doing! xo