Your son or daughter is having a birthday next week? Well, my twins are. I’ve been hesitant to mention it because a child’s birthday party amid a coronavirus “shelter in place” order would be frowned up by the governor and most of my neighbors.
Explaining the need to cancel or postpone a birthday party to a 5-year-old, let alone two, can be both difficult and fruitless. Your child may not understand the why, but if you’re in a situation like mine you owe it to him or her to try. Delaying such an event, even in the light of the current social isolation thing, actually may be harder than planning the shindig itself.
Here’s the skinny. Almost every moment, situation and occurrence in life is a teachable moment. These moments are ones ripe for learning, and should not be wasted. So, make sure that you don’t waste this one. Kids learn experientially and empirically, and they follow your lead. Give them a good lead to follow. If you love your kids, and want them to feel special on their birthday (of course you do), then you are at least half the way to success already, virus or not. You can control enough elements to still make these milestone events memorable.
So how do we find the happy compromise that will keep you sane and your child smiling?
First, be honest
Start with yourself. You love you kid and want what’s best for him or her which, at the moment, is not a grand event with lots of people. It’s OK to think this.
Now be honest with your child. Believe it or not, honesty is both cool and almost always a win-win. Look your child in the eye and explain the situation, whether you use the term “virus” or not. Be sure to regularly interject how much you love them and how you still want them to have a special day. And you can because you still can control some of the situation. With some effort, some creativity and some help, COVID-19 will not have the final say.
Don’t focus on what you can’t do. Instead, make a list of things you can do for your child’s birthday. Luckily, in this digital age we find ourselves beholden to can help a lot.
- Skype, FaceTime and other video calling tools are a great way to be “face to face” without violating social distancing protocols.
- Here’s a shocking truth: your smart phone can actually make phone calls. Who knew?
- Postal workers have to eat, so keep them employed by asking lots of friends and family to send your child cards (homemade is fine — you’re child probably isn’t a Hallmark snob). Trust me, it’s old-fashioned but your kids will love it still.
If you sell it to your child with some extra positivity, there’s a good chance he or she will buy it.
“You may never have another birthday quite like this one!”
“We’re going to try it like this this year and, if you don’t like it, we’ll go back to a traditional party next year.”
“We’re trendsetters! Trust me, in three months everyone will be having ‘no people’ parties.”
Make it your child’s birthday week
Make the specialness last more than just one day by doing a little bit every day to spread the birthday love for your child out to seven days. Again, this creates more attention for your child and more chances to make memories.
If you can use video calling, have your birthday boy or girl open their presents “live,” so both the giver and receiver can enjoy the moment. This, of course, may require the giver sending the present via mail or leaving by your door.
Each day, have a few relatives or friends Skype/FaceTime/calls to sing Happy Birthday. Trust me, kids loving hearing it multiple times if they know it is for them.
And every day in the mail … more cards! Maybe some presents, too.
Don’t stress about it
At the very least, not in front of the kids. I’m not saying it’s not stressful, but your stress is not the gift you want to give them.
COVID-19 is not a final verdict. It’s simply an obstacle that will make you use your creative skills more to show your child how important he or she is. Quarantine? Pshaw, my kids are still getting cupcakes and balloons, and getting sung to for a week!
They will feel special because I make them feel special, and THAT, dear friends, is what they will remember.
About the author
Scott Mason is a married, 43-year-old sometimes stay-at-home dad of three — including a set of twins — who lives in Burbank, Ohio. When not entertaining his kids, he owns a house painting business, writes, directs and acts on stage with several local theater organizations, and helps lead the youth group at his church. His original version of this post first appeared on Families of Multiples.