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Saying Happy Birthday

Rome wasn't built in a day. It took a long time for the seven Lazio villages to form a greater whole that we recognize as Rome. As people we are never complete, there isn't a moment when you stop and realize things have reached the finishing line. For me birthdays are those milestones that make up the path that leads into the road of my life.

So you can say that I enjoy my husband's birthday, my kids' birthdays, and yes even my birthday. All of these are little reminders that we are alive, developing, maturing, and learning. I look forward to these moments. Each year we choose different themes for our birthday party. Usually it is something that means something to the one celebrating. For example my youngest decided that over the course of the last year she loves horses. So of course the theme was easy to guess. While this isn't always a given, that party was easy to decorate. We've used the same site for a couple of parties, if you notice they specialize in just about any type of party you can imagine. This brought up the question for us; "Do people actually need all of these options?"

Even though we have a theme for the parties they are more akin to the celebrations that my husband and I had growing up. They are traditional small celebrations with either friends and/or family.

There was an interesting article on psychologytoday.com that highlighted the current trend towards bigger is better.

I think that it is interesting on a number of levels. To quote the article:

Rarely do we stop to consider why we have birthday parties in the first place. Or perhaps more importantly, what do our children think about all this? Do they even understand what is being celebrated? What do young children understand about birthdays and birthday parties?

When our children were able to cognitively understand what, well, the big deal was about they looked forward to the idea, but never expected more than what was being planned. In the same article the author gave an example of a boy who was turning six year olds, he and his family flew on "the day of his birthday, he and his family were out of the country, so instead of a full-fledged party they simply had a cake, he blew out the candles, and they promised him a party when they returned home." This in and of itself is enough to confuse most children that are in the position to understand the basic concept of what the day represents. For the child, it was an abstract thought, that was not based on a standardized concept, rather abstract and arbitrarily assigned. As he was preparing for the promised party he was insistent that he was now turning seven, "this child clearly seemed to believe that birthday parties play a causal role in the aging process. Two cognitive developmental studies support this possibility."

How is it that we have taken one of the most exciting days in a child's life, one filled with laughter, silly games, and lots of cake and ice cream and shifted it into the realm of international travel and unsustainable consumerism?

As parent's we want to give our children as many possibilities of happiness as we are in a position to give. We want to make them happy, thus it is an understandable jump for some to make it a day they will never forget (until next year rolls around) and while is is admirable it places both the parents and child in a position that quickly allows things to get out of focus.

My husband told me a story once when we were dating. He related the happiest birthday he could recall. His grandmother made him a cake that had Superman on it. She didn't buy the cake, she made it from scratch. This was long before the day of super herĂ³ themed parties (my son just attended one last month, he was Ironman). He showed me a picture taken of him that day and there are only a few instances when I have seen him beam more (notably on the day our children were born).

I will close with four words. Bigger isn't always better.