In our house, birthdays are more than just a milestone. They are an event. When my oldest son, Miles, turned four this past month, we prepared weeks in advance. We repainted our play room and hung new decorations celebrating his favorite artwork he had made at preschool. We scheduled trips to our local Jump Zone, so he could run around with his friends and get some energy out. My wife ordered a custom Wonder Pets-themed birthday cake (his favorite show). He had banners declaring “Happy Birthday!” He had a crown.
We like to think of birthdays as occasions to celebrate each other and all that we have accomplished in the past year. As a Together CountsTM ambassador, I value celebrating family moments big and small. When the days go by so fast, birthdays are the perfect opportunity to take a breath and spend an entire day together. They are also a time when the normal rules of the household do not apply. You want to jump on the bed? Just this once. You want pancakes for dinner? Sure thing. You want to eat birthday cake in your underwear while wearing a cape? Why not.
This year, Miles wore a crown all day and proudly declared to those showing up to his party, “I’m four now!” – shoving four increasingly skinny fingers valiantly into the air. His gifts reflected his shifting tastes: instead of cars and trains, they were focused on animals and superheroes. Life is becoming more complicated for him, more nuanced. His view of the world is taking shape, and in many ways that keep us up at night, we are powerless to stop it.
Birthdays allow all of us a bit of respite from that process of growing up, no matter our age. For Miles, it means for one day he can be as selfish as we let him be when he was only one year old. For me and my wife, birthdays are a chance to reclaim a bit of our own childhoods. We can pretend for just a day, in whatever ways are available to us, that we have no serious responsibilities. We can revel in being celebrated in a childlike way, where others take care of us for a change.
As a parent, part of my responsibility towards my children will always be to help them grow up into responsible adults. But I think it’s just as important to model how to have fun, how to shed that responsibility every once in a while and do something ridiculous. The Together Counts program focuses on families being together and active, and to me, birthdays are one of the most important parts of the year to do so.
Because everyone deserves to be selfish every once in a while, to eat what they want to eat, to play how they want to play. And they deserve to have their friends and family do it too. That is what being celebrated is all about.
For more ideas on celebrating events big and small, check out these Together Counts resources:
By day, Caleb Gardner is a social media director, but the opinions here are exclusive to him. He’s also a husband and father, and moonlights as a musician, writer at The Exceptional Man, and photographer.