Large Family Birthdays

I’m going to take a break from the scheduling posts for just a bit, but I promise I will get back to them soon!

We recently celebrated another birthday and it made me stop to ponder how very different birthdays look from when we first started celebrating birthdays around here.

I hesitated to call this post “Large Family Birthdays” because we stopped doing traditional birthday parties long before we had a large family.  However, I have to admit, we adopted a “large family mentality” about the same time and I wonder if that partly helped to make our decision.

So, let me give you a taste of what birthdays USED TO look like:

A room full of people
Tons of children (not my own)
Gifts being discarded within seconds of being opened
Very few decent birthday pictures because of the chaos
Tons of money spent on birthday extras that were really just a way to “keep up with the Joneses”
Exhausted parents & cranky children

Now, I know some of you LOVE the birthday party atmosphere, but for our family, it just wasn’t working.  And as our family grew, all we could envision was more and more chaos on more and more days of the year.

So, we ditched it all.

The day of the child’s birthday, they are exempt from school and chores.  They choose what we eat and most of the activities we participate in that day.  We open presents as a family and usually eat ice cream cake.

Someday during the birthday week, grandparents come for a visit with more cake and their presents.  There is always a special cake made by Granny to the child’s specifications.  (The cake in the picture is my horse-loving daughter’s special cake.)  The grandparents get the joy of seeing the children open their gifts without the frenzy of a million children and a million gifts.

Ocassionally, there are special outings with one friend and one friend only.  A few years ago we experimented with having 2 friends and it was not good.  Someone was always left out.

We also do half-sleepovers where the one friend gets to stay at our house until midnight or 12:30.  The kids LOVE this!  We do not do full sleepovers at all.

The celebrations include the entire family which teaches humility and sharing for the birthday child and patience and servanthood for the other children.  Everyone definitely knows who the birthday child is, but the birthday child is encouraged to be considerate of his or her siblings.  Celebrations are calm, but fun.  There are pictures galore and they are really, really good ones.  Presents are kept under control, and I never feel the stress of needing to put on a gala affair.

And that, my friends, Works for Me! (to read all sorts of other tips and trick from other bloggers, click the link!)

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29 thoughts on “Large Family Birthdays

  1. okay i love the cake! it’s perfect for my daughter, so i might have to try and make one of those!
    Some great ideas.. i know we struggle with parties, so this might help!

  2. Wow, what a great way to celebrate. Only having two children and one on the way I already was struggling with the big birthday party thing because it is hard to manage now and I have dreams of having an even larger family. Thank you!

  3. That is exactly how we do our birthdays. our kids love it and they really don’t ask about having a party. i think we stopped it when they were young enogh.

  4. Thanks for the post.
    I have a question for you. I’ve had a birthday party inviting family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) over for a traditional kids birthday – food, cake, gifts, games – for my first daughter’s first and second birthday. I’ve since decided against the whole party idea.
    I feel a need to “keep it fair” and do the same for my second daughter. What are your thoughts on “keeping it fair”?

  5. Yes, I think it is kind of crazy when people put on big theme parties and spend a bundle on parties and have to top them each year with something bigger and better.

  6. Amen Sister~

    Great post!

    That is much how we celebrate birthdays around here! One year when we still did the BIG birhtday thing….I did not make goodie bags (they cost a bundle to put together) and one child who was about 7yrs old said to me,
    “what kind of party is this? No goodie bags? Thats lame!”
    My son was so embarrassed….and not happy with me,after all I had already done!

    My son wanted to keep up with the Jones or at least felt the presure too. Thats when Hubby and I decided to not give our children a large group style party! With 6 kiddos it was hard to keep up with large scale parties!

    Starting mid May we have a birthday 3 birthdays in a row! One every 2 weeks for 6 weeks!
    Its during baseball season,life here is busy!

    Happy Birthday to your little one!

    Tell granny she did a great job on the cake!

    Grandparents are wonderful aren’t they!

    I wish my parents and in laws lived close!

    Prayers and Blessings,
    Georgiann

  7. Naomi,
    Our last big party was my 2nd child’s 2nd birthday. We just downplayed the whole thing and acted as if this is the way it’s always been. I don’t remember the children even noticing. The adults were very understanding.

    There are still pictures and there is still fun so I don’t think they feel they are missing out. We’ve even attended some big parties for others and they all seem to be okay with not having something like that.

    There is just absolutely no way to make everything fair for our children. And that’s okay. :)

  8. Our son has a particularly tricky birthday–Christmas Eve! He just turned one this year and we did a grandparents-only celebration. He’s a fortunate baby to have a set of great-grandparents too! As far as gifts go, we allow one “birthday” gift. We did celebrate his half-birthday in June with a more traditional party, but I’m still a big fan of limiting the celebration.

  9. After my first child’s 1st birthday, I did away with the “big party” fiasco…one time was one too many for me!

    Birthdays can so easily become more about the day (and my expectations) and less about the child…so I like all your ideas!

    I’ll have to remember that “half-sleepover” idea…GENIOUS! :)

  10. We don’t do big parties either. We have always done family celebrations. I let the child pick the kind of cake they would like and I make it for them. They also get to pick what we eat for dinner. Now that they’re getting a little older(my oldest is 12), they are opting for doing an activity, like going horseback riding or ice-skating and that is part of their birthday gift.

  11. We do similar things…we take them out to lunch…just the birthday kid and mom and dad…they pick what cereal for breakfast and what dinner…we have their party with just us…and I’ve recently begun making cakes. Mimi has a special desert for them too and we open presents from her over there.

    They can pick a fun thing to do for their birthday and invite the cousins or a friend. Usually the cousins come!

  12. I just found your site and CANNOT stop reading! I love what you do for birthdays, but one question I have is this. When you go to other birthday parties that are bigger, do your children ever say, “I don’t understand why I can’t have birthdays like this.” And if so, what is your response. My children are 10, 5, 2 (and we have one due in April), and I am switching to a large family mentaility. They have always had parties at home, but with friends. I am just anticipating some griping and bad attitudes at first and don’t want my older children to feel resentful of the younger siblings.
    You may have already posted on this and I just haven’t seen yet, but, could you post about how you do Christmas and Easter in a big family? What things you do to make them special without a million gifts. I have been cutting back for years and focusing more on Christ than presents, but I still have a ways to go there!

    Thank you so much for this blog!

    • Kristin,
      Great ideas for posts…I’ll see what I can do as those seasons approach.

      Our children do go to the occasional big birthday party and there are sometimes questions about why we can’t do that too. However, we just keep trying to refocus them toward the fun they do have with their siblings and other family members. They also seem to be well aware of how chaotic those big birthday parties seem to be. I think the important thing to remember here is that you will always be exposed to families who do things differently than you choose to do, and the best way to counteract this is to make what you do special for your family. :)

  13. THANKYOU!! Finally someone who understand *why* I quit doing the crazy bday parties. Even having over *some* friends/family was more stress than I needed, and thats not what I wanted for my bday kid to remember – mama’s meltdown on whatever birthday.
    Im so glad I came across your website. Now back to reading more posts :)

  14. May I ask why you dont do full sleepovers? just curious because we are considering what we will do as the kids get older. I have always been one to throw semi large parties for our DD but low cost because i clearance shop. But the last two years have been ciaos (mainly due to 1 extended member) and I am not sure what we are going to implement for the rest of the kids. I am thinking about a friends party with my friends and their kids because its the only time we all get together but thats more for me then my kids i suppose. SO maybe a play date but an actual party with just family?!

    • Hello! We don’t do full sleepovers because we don’t want our sons and daughters put in the position of being in someone else’s home overnight where there are siblings of the opposite sex. Not only does this keep them from temptation, it keeps them above reproach as well.

  15. I am agreeing with you about the nice smaller birthdays with just family. My children would have birthdays with extended family of my husbands side, then another party with my extended family, then a friend party on their day. It just got to be way too much.

  16. Most of my older kids have ditched the normal birthday chaos and have a few close friends for a sleepover, but my ‘elementary age’ kids still want goodie bags and loads of friends. With twins, even more chaos…when did you decide to celebrate birthdays in a calm, family oriented way?

    • After my son’s 2nd birthday when the children crowded him out of opening his own presents. He was disoriented and so were we and we realized we didn’t need more stuff and we really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere family provided. :)

  17. Amy – I really want to say a huge THANK YOU for this article on birthdays. You have given me permission not to feel guilty for not throwing the huge birthdays that our friends usually throw. I find throwing big kids’ birthday parties to be expensive, time-consuming, exhausting, and extremely unpleasant, but I have felt guilty about not wanting to throw them. Now I’m going to embrace smaller birthdays (which I love) without the guilt trip. Thank you!!!!

  18. I have to admit, I really like my birthday parties! I think because I’m such an outgoing individual…but more and more as my kids are getting older we’ve been scaling back.

    In our home we’ve been grouping children’s birthdays together (our fall babies, and our summer babies!) and also having a friend or two for a few of the last birthday celebrations. I really like some of your suggestions and may talk to my hubby about implementing some of them with our family.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  19. I have to admit, I really like my birthday parties! I think because I’m such an outgoing individual…but more and more as my kids are getting older we’ve been scaling back.

    In our home we’ve been grouping children’s birthdays together (our fall babies, and our summer babies!) and also having a friend or two for a few of the last birthday celebrations. I really like some of your suggestions and may talk to my hubby about implementing some of them with our family.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  20. Hi Amy,

    I just found your website a few days ago and it is a gold mine of ideas! I am benefitting from all your research on large families! When our fifth child was born, my husband and I were feeling overwhelmed so I did as much research as I could on large family living. It was very helpful. Now we have seven and I’m still learning! I’m the oldest of six and we adopted what my parents did: birthday parties at 5, 10, and 15. Very easy, inexpensive parties. At age 5, only nearby relatives come for a meal and cake. At 10, they have their first friend party. They have a price limit ($30) and if they want to spend a little more it needs to be approved and come out of their money. At 15, they have their last friend party. This helps especially as two of my girls share a birthday (not twins), so each child can have their own special time every few years. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge. By the way, I bought the Holiday Planner that you recommend and love it! Just what I need to motivate me and keep organized! God bless your beautiful family.

    • Typically, in a house there are boys and girls due to siblings being there. This isn’t a situation we want to put our children in, no matter their age. We also don’t necessarily have the same rules as another family, so the only time we do “total overnighters” are when we are together as a family. It’s simply a matter of safety for our children.