Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why We're Postponing Our Son's First Birthday Party

Rodrick's son

Earlier this month our son turned 1 year old. Now if you ask me how it happened so fast, I'd say I have no idea. It's really so true when people say that time flies when you're having fun. I also have a tween - a 12 year old who officially becomes a teenager next month. She's the only child from my first marriage. She resides with my wife and me. During the summertime and holidays she goes to her mom - my ex - who relocated to her home state after the divorce.

My wife and I were excited to see our not so newborn little son reach his first major milestone by turning 1. It's really a cause for celebration. So we thought that a party was in order.

Now here's the kicker - and the basis for me writing this post. We made a decision together to postpone his birthday party until our daughter returns from her summer break. Although that would be at least 3 to 4 weeks after his birthday, we very much wanted her to be a part of it. So on his birthday, we just went out for a very informal dinner - just the 3 of us.

Here's why we made this decision: We're a closely knit family so while our daughter spends a lot of time with her mother, she's also a vital part of our household. Without her, our blended family isn't quite complete.

I wrote about The Story of My Blended Family to share how I went from being a divorced/single father to a happily married father of 2. My wife and daughter, in my view, are the model of how a stepparent/stepchild relationship should be. They genuinely love and respect each other and have a bond that is so close that many people mistakenly believe that they're biologically related. They're that close.

Whenever our daughter's away, to my wife and me, her presence is missed. But still, we love the fact that she has 2 homes where she's loved and always welcome. I'm sure that to my ex, the sentiments are the same; our daughter really has the gift to light up a home.

While she's been away for the summer, her brother has become an expert at creeping. And now he's in the last part of that phase as he's trying to graduate to the walking phase. He's developing so fast that it's amazing to think that not too long ago, he was a little 5 lb 8 oz newborn bundle of joy.

When he was born last year, his big sister was also away. I ensured that she was kept abreast of the whole process - especially the very long labor. And when he was born, she was the first person who was not in the delivery room to hear the news that he was born.

So now that he's 1 year old, I also believe it's important that she's a key part of his birthday celebration. She told me that she wants to help plan his party. So now that she has returned, the planning has begun.

Why do I share this post? Well, I believe that embedded within it is something that all families - particularly blended families - can learn from. Kids are wonderful and special. They love to know that they're treasured in every way.

With the 2 scenarios that I just described - the birth and first birthday of our son - quite easily, if we handled them differently, our daughter could have felt left out of a major occurrence in the family. She could have felt like an outsider looking in on a happy celebration. But she's at the core of it all, so in my view, those two very significant events wouldn't be quite the same without demonstrating to her that she's a part of it all.

I wonder how many parents in a similar situation would take the same approach. In particular, I wonder how many stepmothers would postpone their firstborn's first birthday party so that their stepdaughter can be a part of it. Believe me, children know when their well-being is at the forefront of their parents' minds. So kudos to my wife for her role in this. It really speaks volumes about her.

If you're a part of a blended family, I encourage you to think through situations like this that present themselves all the time. Sibling rivalry can be an issue. And especially when siblings don't share both parents, if not handled properly, a lot of resentment and animosity can develop.

Please ensure that every decision you make, you think about what message is being sent to the kids. They know more than we give them credit for at times.

I hope that this post has spoken to your hearts. And if it encourages you to make some changes in your approach to parenting, please implement those changes quickly. Your kids will know and appreciate the effort on your part.

Do enjoy your day.

Rodrick and his family

The Upbeat Dad