I’m now officially in the tween/teen years. It’s a delicate balance of parenthood and not for the faint of heart. The gift requests get more costly and kids are more aware of what others have. Although both of my kids don’t care about clothing labels and brands, they still want to “get stuff”.
We entered into a financially delicate state about this time last year. There wasn’t a lot of extra money to go around and unfortunately, right as things were really headed south – Piper had a birthday. We were not in much better shape when Avery’s birthday came around. Generous grandparents helped make birthdays special in ways that we just couldn’t.
With this stage of time, we also lost the birthday parties. The ones where all of your friends gather around and watch you blow out candles on a carefully selected cake. Where you slave over party bags, and decorations, and a venue … those became days of the past.
We’re now 2 years in and guess what? It’s nice.
This year, Piper asked for a surprise party. I honestly had to tell her that I just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t afford it (her dance costs are very high this time of the year) and I – truthfully – am so overwhelmed with other projects that it would have sent me over the edge.
My husband and I have been talking a lot about moving the kids away from material gifts and onto experiences. Our Christmas this year will revolve around that – things we can do, places that we can go/see, activities, tickets, and the like. Not iPads, gaming systems, and collectibles. Our house is full of them already.
We tried this approach with Piper for her birthday and told her that she could invite one friend. (That is the hardest part … REALLY hard for a girl who loves all of her friends.) Someone to share the experience with is important to a tween. But, in my book, the more friends you add – the more it is a party which is what I’ve vowed we are done with.
I found over the years with parties that I was so tired and stressed out by the time the party happened that I couldn’t really enjoy it. I was either worried about how we would pay for it or if everyone was having a good time. Somehow, without fail, a friend was always left out and felt hurt. Not the intention of a day that was meant for celebrating! But, somehow it always happened.
I’m hoping that by leaving parties behind and moving into this new age of actually “doing” things, the kids will grow closer to each other, to their friends, and to us as parents.
No one remembers eating strawberry cupcakes in your backyard when you turned 9, but I hope the kids will remember going to a concert with a friend when they turned 14! That’s the stuff that memories are made of!!!
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