It’s your kid’s birthday. And well, they want a party. Any parent who has done the party thing, with family, with friends, then with the school: it can feel like arranging a wedding. Kids want food, themes, entertainment and giveaways. Special cakes! Those covered in rolled out sugar sheets. Just the thought of it makes me want to crawl into a hole. I cannot be that kind of parent.
I don’t know if it’s a throwback from the time of the kibbutz in Israel, but there is a lovely thing happening at my kids’ school. It’s called shared birthdays. The school has created a rule that there will be no birthday parties happening with any of the kids at the school, unless all of the kids are invited. And they go one step further by “suggesting” kids get lumped together in the same party according to their birthday month. It’s a shared birthday party.
At first the idea struck me as deeply impersonal. How could my daughter — or son — feel special if other kids were sharing their party? So yeah, at first it sort of freaked me out, the idea, that my son and daughter would “share” a birthday party with other children. But what this does is bring down the bar. Parents are no longer feeling the pressure to over surprise or overwhelm and excite the kids, rather what’s created is a wholesome experience where families join together and carry the load –- and in Israel that can be moving a picnic table at the park.
The first party we shared with one other family, a designer couple, brought both amazing food and activity ideas to the table. We offered the place and the house clown and musician – me and my husband. We made cardboard castles (here’s how), and the kids played for hours in them. All the parents and the older sisters put on a play, using our best skills in design, reading, dancing, puppeteering and playing instruments. Over all it felt like the best kids party I’d been to, and the kids weren’t overwhelmed with sugar, take home plastic toys or screaming clowns.
The second shared party we did was this past summer for my daughter. This time we combined 2 months –– June and July, and there were 5 girls all together. Instead of any one of them not feeling special, they all felt extra special to be in a clan of girls, all celebrating together. We created joint invitations and they talked about it for weeks at pre-school before the big day, a Friday afternoon after school. We created joint activities, snow globes, and brought in a storyteller (this group wanted to pay, not put on the play!), I brought my best playlist and we ordered pizzas and made healthy snacks, and again it was a success. Parents who joined brought jointly-bought presents, also taking off the strain.
Will you have a party on the right weekend, and will the kids show up? Will you spend weeks planning, and then weeks coming down from your kid’s birthday party? Will you spend at least hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars making it happen? Start a new tradition with your friends and families and schools. Get the kids to celebrate, like the way we do at our kids’ school in Israel by doing shared parties. It’s healthier, cheaper, and a much happier place for all.