I’m on vacation with my man and so some of my favorite people are sharing their hearts on my blog today. I’m honored that they would share their heart and wisdom with you guys! Today is my friend Kimberly who I am beyond grateful that God has allowed me to live down the street from. I learn more about parenting from her than I do any other woman in my life.
I can remember a few birthdays growing up as a kid, well really, I just remember pictures. Pictures I once saw of a themed birthday with presents, friends I can’t remember and a huge cake that I looked at as I glanced through a family photo album. My mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 12 years old. I remember every moment of that phone call and wanting to get my mom flowers, I remember many moments of walking through that disease with her for the rest of her life and into cancer and death at 50 years old. I walked that road with my mother as a young child, a college student, a young single and into marriage and parenthood. That road taught me many things, but one thing I learned and grew out of it was to celebrate purpose and life in those around me. Do something that tells the other person “You matter”.
Now, as a mother of 4, one of those times of celebrations comes with birthdays. My desire is that they would be full of sentiment and be remembered in their mind rather than just a picture they will pass by one day.
Birthday celebrations start for us at the moment we find out we will have another child. The name of the child is prayed for and we ask God for a verse or something that helps us to begin identifying our kids with their God given purpose. Each of our kids have a name with a story behind it and a verse that marks a taste of their purpose. We don’t fully know how the Lord will use our children, but we trust Him and make moments for them to remember they have a purpose in life. And so each year when we come back to remembering that moment they were born, we celebrate them!! Here are a couple of things we process through to determine the birthday celebration each year.
1. We want the birthday celebrations to be shaped by the year experienced.
2. We want to stick with one tradition that our kids can identify with our family
3. We want celebration that fits the child, not what we want
4. Make it simple and sentimental
5. Mark significant years
6. Gifts are always an option, they are not the definition of the celebration
7. The whole family is involved
To give you an example of what a birthday might look like after we have processed through the list above, I’ll share with you about our youngest’s daughter’s birthday last month.
Karis turned 4 in June. Her verse and name speaks of God’s grace to tell to the Nations. We pray her life will display God’s grace to many. We wrote in her journal. Karis had the traditional birthday morning. They wake up and something around them is decorated with balloons or string or anything we can find (door or hallway) and they get to enter the kitchen once everyone is awake. So you can imagine they wake up early and come jump in our bed trying to get us up! =) They find their “Birthday Poster” filled with pictures and written words of encouragement from the whole family. This is done the evening before and it is truly “christmas” for us! They get their choice of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner that day. So she got donuts that morning, and received some gifts from us that were simple. We decided to do a party that celebrated her friends this year! Karis has blossomed into a strong individual and we have really watched her grow in many ways this year. Her friends have been a specific reflection in that growth and so we invited her 2 friends and their families for lunch to celebrate her birthday. We marked the moment by describing her friends and giving them butterfly “medals” and thanking them for their friendship to Karis. We did not do gifts this year. But Karis gave gifts to her friends and we had pictures of she and her friends in a collage as well as on the table everyone sat at. The party itself was a surprise because Karis is so fun and loves to surprise us as well! We had cupcakes and all went for a swim after. Later for dinner we went to Karis’ favorite place to eat in Austin! We could tell that Karis is getting old enough now to really catch on the the traditions we are setting and feeling loved and celebrated as she is already anticipating her next birthday!
We shaped our party based on Karis’ year of friendships. And emphasized it with the “medals” and specific invites for her friends. The week before the party, we asked Karis a series of questions like “What is your favorite color?”, ect and used her answers to come up with colors and decor. We made a lot of the the items and had simple things to reflect her answers. Traditions include 1. Picture poster. 2. Decor that fits the child. 3. It is all a surprise and family stays up and makes it together 4. Birthday kid picks all food items on the menu. (Our oldest has already let me know that come november Mac n Cheese is what he wants for B, L and D!) 5. We have a journal that we write in for them each bday and other specific moments of their life. This year, no gifts were involved at the party and Karis never missed it! All of our kids look forward most to the morning of their birthday- even more than the party.
I share about how we celebrate birthdays in our home, not so that we can compare ourselves with one another, but so that it might encourage you to celebrate your kids in their life. Birthdays are only one way…what are other ways we can celebrate our kids? The celebrations will play a role in life as they journey into their purpose. If I only celebrate “disney princesses” and not my daughter, it will leave a picture for another photo book. But if I celebrate Karis, she will remember that her life mattered for a purpose. Go have fun celebrating your family and those around you!!
Kimberly Stewart is wife to Michael Stewart and mother to four children, Wesley-Grant, Sally, Kelly-Josiah (being adopted from Haiti), and Karis. Her and her family live in Austin, Texas. Read more from Kimberly and follow their adoption journey at her blog: THE STEWART FAMILY.