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Want to Build a Strong Society? Celebrate a Family Birthday!

Do you remember doing analogies in your Language Arts classes? Here’s one we’d love you to consider:

Strong foundation : Strong structure :: ___________ : Strong society

Read on for how Primerrily would fill in that blank and how we want to help you do so in life!

When architects design a building, they take special care to create a strong foundation so they can build a strong structure. One of Primerrily’s Primers is that family is the cornerstone of society. If we want to build a strong society, we need to create strong families. One way Primerrily parents seek to do that is by celebrating family birthdays. Yes, individual birthdays are certainly worth the hoopla, and Primerrily shares some unique ways to do that for kids and adults. But nothing is quite like a family birthday to solidify the home team. Some families choose to celebrate this day on the parents’ wedding anniversary, but even if you are parenting alone, keep reading -- family birthdays are for EVERY family, no matter the size. Let us show you why and how.

1. Pick a specific date to celebrate and tell your kids why that date matters

Kids thrive on routine, predictability, and consistency. It’s no surprise that they are naturally inclined to rituals and are ripe for the family birthday tradition. Just like singing a sweet song to conclude the nightly bedtime routine or enjoying pizza on a Friday night in the weekly routine, the family birthday can become an annual routine on your calendar. Whether it’s the day you and your child’s other parent met, the date of your wedding anniversary, the date on which you decided you wanted to grow your family in number, the date (you think) your first kid was conceived, pick it and stick to it. Your kid will learn to remember this date just like his/her birthday. My hope is that after practicing the family birthday tradition in childhood, every time April 19 rolls around, my kids will have an extra skip in their step, whether they are in college, at work, or raising families of their own.

Whatever date you choose, explain why that date is special. This provides context -- additional foundation material -- to your kid’s life. More than just “mom and dad’s anniversary,” I want my kids to think of April 19, 2008 as the date mom and dad committed to be about more than just themselves. I want my kids to think about this date as a day they knew they were loved, thought about, and prayed for -- almost a full 8 years before the first of our crew was born. As parents know, love is born a lot earlier than the day a baby takes his first breath.

Think about it this way: when you’re a guest in someone’s home, isn’t it a treat to know that someone spent extra time preparing for your arrival before you ever got there? Does it enhance your experience while you are with the host? Does it impact the way you want to treat others who come into your home? The same goes for a kid when she learns the family birthday predates her birthday.

Kids thrive on routine, predictability, and consistency. It’s no surprise that they are naturally inclined to rituals and are ripe for the family birthday tradition.

Above and below are scenes from five April 19's since welcoming children into our family. From left to right: (2016) I snapped a photo with our first born, all dolled up and nowhere to go because it was a much-needed date night with daddy, but we still celebrated in coordinating style with her at home; (2017) I was pregnant with our second child and had a work trip scheduled that day, but we wanted our little girl to see that the day was special, so we took a picture of us in front of our wedding photo to show her later that day; (2018) Family snuggle time as we reminisced about April 19, 2008; (2020) Family birthday in quarantine: our kids were upset they hadn't been "invited" to our original wedding, so they decided to transform our tree house into a chapel so mom and dad could "renew their vows" with their very own groomsman and bridesmaids as witnesses; (2021) Family birthday at gymnastics class: it's often easier to divide and conquer" extracurricular activities as a family with three kids out of the womb / one kid in the womb, but on this day we decided we'd both attend our daughter's mermaid gymnastics class and our son's ninja gymnastics class. They loved knowing they had twice the audience and associated it with the fact that it was an extra special day - it was the family birthday!

2. Do what your family loves to do, on a recurring date, with a special twist, all together

Now that you’ve got the why, let’s talk about the how. Schools have mascots, sports teams have chants, military branches have marches, and countries have national anthems. Bonds between people are made tighter through repeatedly shared traditions that have special meaning to that group in particular.

So think about your family’s happiest moments -- what led to the joy? Was it playing a rowdy board game? Watching a funny movie? Baking delicious treats? Allowing your family room to become a fort filled with sheets and pillows? Hiking in the woods? Here are a few ways my husband and I have tried to make the family birthday stand out in our kids’ memories.

Our kids like desserts, so we go to the bakery and let them pick out lots of different kinds of treats. Our kids really enjoy playing with flowers, so my husband takes them to the grocery to choose which flowers they want to put in a vase. Our kids love gymnastics, so we ALL went to gymnastics class (even if we didn't all participate). Our kids love tea parties, so we put out special paper plates and napkins that correspond to whatever theme they are into at the moment (Paw Patrol, unicorns, etc.). Our kids love playing dress-up, so on one family birthday I dressed up as the queen (thanks Amazon for the adult Cinderella costume), dad was the camo king, sister was the princess, and brother was the camo prince. We ate a “royal dinner” like this, not because we served extra fancy food, but because we ate with plastic crowns on our head, we had never done it before, and we were all “in uniform” together. Every year the celebration has been different, reflecting where our children are in their development, but one thing is the same: we ALL celebrate April 19!

Family gymnastics fun My favorite least favorite flowers

Maybe for your family you choose to host a family campout in the living room fort they construct or you go wild and have a double-feature movie night with freshly popped popcorn while snuggling in matching pajamas. Whatever you do, the three key ingredients are to make it 1) age-appropriate, 2) different from the everyday, and 3) inclusive of all members of the family.

Bonds between people are made tighter through repeatedly shared traditions that have special meaning to that group in particular. So think about your family’s happiest moments -- what led to the joy?

3. If you are a single parent, you are not alone, and the family birthday is still for you!

We recognize that not every home is a two-parent family. In fact, many families in America today are not. In 2017, the Pew Research Center (PRC) found that almost 1 in 3 kids were growing up in a single-parent household. Additionally, the PRC reports that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households, and contrary to some people’s expectations, U.S. children from Christian and religiously unaffiliated families are about equally likely to live in this type of arrangement.

Separation, divorce, and death are realities of our world, and Primerrily stands with single parents who are doing their best to love their babies, whatever their circumstances. Even though I’m married now with a very supportive husband, I am sympathetic to the loneliness and hardship of parenting alone. I myself grew up as an only child in a two-parent home that functioned more like a single-parent home, an awkward scenario in itself. It’s because of this that I have a special admiration for single parents who courageously shoulder the burdens that fully-invested two-parent households still find taxing even as a couple. To say single-parenting is hard on women (according to the PRC, 83% of the time it’s the mamas) and kids is an understatement -- but the family birthday can help provide a boost.

When my parents’ anniversary would roll around every year, I was especially sensitive to the date, knowing that my mom wouldn’t receive the expressions of love I wanted her to experience from my dad. When I would verbalize that feeling, she bravely said, “Honey, I am so thankful for June 12, 1982. Without your dad, I wouldn’t have you.” This planted a seed for me, a seed that later grew into the fruit of the family birthday idea. Even if you can’t celebrate your wedding anniversary in the classic way, you can still find a way to help your kids know that they were conceived in love (catch that nod to Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us?”), that they were / are still wanted, and that mom and dad -- even with all their disagreements -- 100% agree that their kids were the best thing they ever created together.

So if you’re in this camp, mama, know that you’ve got yourself a Primerrily cheerleading team -- and good teammates on the field. One woman worth mentioning is Mary Ball Washington, the mother of our Founding Father George Washington. She was widowed when George was only 11. No doubt Mary gave her son a lot of the training he needed to become the General of the Continental Army, the first U.S. President, and the husband of Martha, who was a single mom with four kids herself when he married her. Some of the best moms I know are single moms, and in fact the only other person I know who practices the family birthday celebration is a single mom who rocks it.

Mary Ball Washington and Martha Custis Washington: the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law didn't just share a mutual love for their dear George; they also both knew what it was like to be a single mom with kids looking to them for strength and security.

Even if you can’t celebrate your wedding anniversary in the classic way, you can still find a way to help your kids know that they were conceived in love

The world is crazy, so let’s be a little silly so we can give our kids some added security

Confident kids make for confident adults who are empowered to hold jobs, take care of families, pay taxes, vote in elections, roll with the punches, and generally contribute positively to society. Kids look to parents first as their source for that confidence. They look to their parents for a sense of security in a crazy world gone crazier. Today, it can be tricky to know which toys are okay for play, which books are appropriate to read, and which neighbors can be trusted. In an age full of question marks, let’s add an exclamation mark (with confidence!) to our kids’ lives. Let’s celebrate family birthdays! American society will be the stronger for it.

It can feel a little ridiculous dressing up as royalty, but then I realize, doing this silly thing will make a big impression on impressionable little people.

April 19, 2008, the groom dancing with his bride;

April 19, 2020, the groom dancing with his daughter


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