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Q. "Here is my small but big problem. My daughter was born on September 8, 2000; then, two years later on September 8, 2002, my son was born. So now I have to make a party for both a boy and a girl. It's not that much of a problem now while they are both still young; but what can I do to make them both feel special as they get older?"
A. There's lots you can do for your children so they'll each feel special on the birthday they share. The most important factor will be your attitude, approach, and interest in having each child participate in creating a day that is special to each of them. As your daughter's third birthday approaches, ask her how she would like to celebrate the occasion, explaining that you want to make the day special for her as well as for her brother. Allow her to decide whether she wants a party for herself, or if she wants to celebrate the day jointly. Depending on the response she gives, you can then proceed with your party plans. As you approach her fourth birthday, give her the same options again.A Group Effort
In the year your son turns three and your daughter turns five, all three of you should brainstorm about what to do. As each child offers up ideas, you should write them down. Once all the ideas are on paper, discuss them, weighing the pros and cons. If an idea won't work for everyone, eliminate it. Keep discussing all ideas until all three of you come up with a solution that is satisfactory to everyone, including you, Mom. Remember, parents have veto power -- If the children's ideas get too grandiose, you can reject them or at least scale them down a bit. Remember, the point of having a party is to honor the day of each child's birth. This doesn't necessarily require an elaborate celebration. Often the simplest and least expensive parties are the most special and memorable. Many parents would feel compelled to throw elaborate celebrations for each child, but this can get expensive and is often unnecessary -- some kids get stressed out by big, elaborate parties. Finally, if your kids are dead set against a joint celebration, consider taking a weekend before and a weekend after the actual birth date to have small, individual celebrations using whatever ideas you have agreed to as the theme.
Birthday parties don't necessarily need to be on the exact day of your children's birth. Consider preserving September 8 of each year for a simple celebration for your immediate family. You're fortunate to have this one special day to celebrate the birth of both children, so use it as a time to reflect your family's values. One way you can do that is to create a birthday ritual for the family.
The birthday ritual might include lighting a special candle for each child, or saying a prayer of thanksgiving and protection for them. Keep a memory book for each child -- you can add new pictures and memorabilia charting their developmental benchmarks (e.g., first words, first steps, first steps, first bike ride, etc.) and achievements in school, sports, and extracurricular activities.
Family members can also use this time to share funny stories about each child. Cap the night off by planning a menu with their favorite foods and watching their favorite movies. By turning their shared birthday into a special family-focused day, you'll help your children will feel recognized and loved, and -- in the process -- the sibling bond may actually be strengthened between them.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.