A Simple Birthday

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I spoke about simple birthdays the other week and it was one of my most liked posts, which obviously means something…

I think that we are wanting simpler celebrations. We are tired and fed up of getting stressed, trying to buy the perfect day, not to mention all the gifts we think we need to provide. I have been the mother that gave it all and on the other side of that, the mother that kept it simple and I can say without doubt, that the simpler mother is happier and therefore, so are her kids.

When I had children, like most mothers I wanted to give them everything. We long to give our children all the things we didn’t have, we want to give them all we can and more. And more and more. But when did we start believing, that ‘everything’ had to be stuff?! That we have to spend more money, bake taller cakes and hold bigger parties, than the one that came before. When did we start thinking and therefore teaching our children, that there isn’t such a thing as enough.

We’ve never given our kids parties as we aren’t the party kind of family, we prefer days out together, or seeing a few great friends instead. But we did use to gift our children so much stuff and I loved it. I often wonder if it was more for me than it was for them because although it left me stressed, it also made me feel important and like I was being the best mum there was. Anyway, I would spend months beforehand buying toys as I saw them, squirrelling them away in hidden places, so hidden that I would forget that they were there, meaning I would buy more. I ignored where these new toys would go, just as much as I ignored the bank balance as that was just what we did, we shopped.

But even while doing this, I knew it wasn’t right for us. Yes the kids loved the toys and all that jazz but because of the sheer overwhelm of it all, the actual day always ended in tears, both theres and mine. There was too much mess, too much stress, it was all too much. But I still overbought, I couldn’t see another way and beside, back then, I truly thought that stuff equalled love.

Luckily, since simplifying I’ve leant that that isn’t true, even with a kid whose love language is stuff. Presents are great, toys are great but we all know that too much of anything, isn’t good. And I worried about how to make the change, my children were use to a floor strewn with gifts and ribbons galore. Surely anything less than that, would feel, well like less but it didn’t and I couldn’t believe how less, could be more.

I can’t pretend that at first the kids weren’t disappointed when we spoke about simpler birthdays because how could they compare?! But we scaled down gradually, a little less and then less again, until it all became a little less. Yet less is definitely more. There was more white space to enjoy the day, more money to experience days out instead of things and more than that, there was more joy. Eyes would sparkle, hands would wave with glee and smiles stayed wide. There was no longer the comedown after frenzied unwrapping, there wasn’t the upset of too much choice, or of getting the wrong thing. There was just a certain calm to the day that I really can’t explain.

Nowadays we love our simpler birthdays. We choose a few intentional gifts - things that the children actually want, instead of the things I think they want. They make lists and the presents are carefully wrapped with shiny paper and multicolour ribbon, there’s just less and that’s okay. Because rather than the whole day being about the gifts, we now celebrate thee children and who they are.

We just had a birthday. My daughter asked for one thing and then money from everyone else, which she used to go on an adventure. She was keen to go to a hotel at our favourite place, to the beach we love and with the money gathered we made it happen. Because that’s what mattered to her, being together and making memories. And as we celebrated her, she celebrated us. I am so proud of who she is, this person who values herself and others, far more than anything she could own.

Simple birthdays have enhanced our lives. And while at first it seems like you are taking something away, you soon realise that instead, you are gifting something else. You are showing another way, like the birthdays we once had, which were as simple as they were whole. You are living with the motto that there is such a thing as enough when it comes to things, whilst leaving room for more. Only that more can’t always be seen or wrapped up in ribbon but it will forever be remembered. And mostly, those memories, will have nothing to do with the stuff.