In my household, I feel a little ganged up on when it comes to birthdays. I have two celebrations seven days apart in September and another two birthdays only three days apart in June. Organizing back to back birthday parties every year was exhausting, so early on I looked into other options.
Joint birthday parties? Not a good choice because of the age and gender gaps. Plus, the compromise needed to make a successful and fair celebration left both guests of honor unhappy.
Alternating birthday parties? Organizing a party every other year caused even more complaints. Young memories faded quickly and the new upcoming birthday was always the most important one. So I tried another option and I called it Boss Day.
Boss Day is a day set aside which allows the birthday boy or girl to plan their special day from start to finish. In other words, they would be the “boss” for the day and set the agenda for the family. It has proven to be a great family tradition.
I first tried it out on my four year old, giving her a choice between having a birthday party or Boss Day. Her eyes sparkled with the mention that she would get to tell us what to do and she quickly planned a day where parents would stand in the corner while she ate unlimited amounts of ice cream. I then explained in four year old language what Boss Day meant: She would get to plan a fun day for her birthday celebration (within reason, of course) and the family would help out. Or she could still have a birthday party.
She decided she wanted to celebrate her birthday with Boss Day and asked to do something that would have never occurred to me in a million years. She wanted us all to play putt-putt golf with her three uncles (who she thought was hilarious) and then go to her favorite restaurant for dinner. When I realized I had just exchanged a full birthday party with ten four year olds, plus their parents, our extended family and lots of stress for a family day out, I knew I was on to something. Not to be out done, the next child requested Boss Day and planned a girl’s day out with shopping and getting our nails done.
Since then we’ve spent birthdays at nearby theme parks, picnics, staying up all night watching movies, taking the birthday child and best friend Go Kart riding and the list goes on and on. Most Boss Days ended up being family days where we spent quality time together as a family. We would always end the day with the cutting of a birthday cake, a few gifts from the wish list and no complaints!
Now, we still had our share of birthday parties throughout the years, but I had to admit as chief party planner, I loved when I was relieved of duty, especially with such fun results. I also had to admit the big birthday parties had more to do with how I thought a birthday should be celebrated rather than how each child wanted to celebrate. This turned out to be a parental lesson that went far beyond birthday party verses Boss Day for me.
As parents we want what’s best for our children, but sometimes the best thing we can do is to ask questions and listen, to guide rather than command. Whenever I need to be reminded of this, I think about the first official Boss Day when we celebrated a birthday but more importantly, we celebrated how empowered a child feels when they know their voice is really being heard.
To this day the first official Boss Day remains a favorite for the birthday girl. It remains a favorite of mine too but for different reasons. It’s the day we started a successful,fun family tradition and knowing this, in the words of a sleepy four old when asked if she had a happy birthday, “It couldn’t be gooder.”