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Challenge: Happy Birthday!

Birthday Parties to Encourage Empathy

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We raised our children in a suburb where pressure for fancy parties was high. And, I like parties. So, it was no surprise that one of the perks of parenthood for me was the party planning. We went all out...hand-sewn goodie bags and all. When our little one was three or four, my husband and I started talking about how we might throw a fun party where I might indulge my party planning sensibilities and where our kid and her friends might actually build some empathy chops. There were some hits and misses but, the five-year old dress-up party was a real hit.

Our daughter's birthday is near Halloween so, we asked the kids to come in their costumes from the weekend before. We provided hair and make-up (little kid style) and caravanned to our local senior retirement home. I worked it out in advance with their activities director and our kids put on a fashion show (meaning, we walked them through a room where people were seated in a large circle!) for the "grandmas and grandpas," as well as serving up some healthy hugs and treats. A woman in her late 90's sang a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday" to cheers and applause from the group. The center loaned us their patio for pizza and cake and we caravanned home.

The kids loved it! But, the seniors loved it more. Our daughter felt celebrated without two hours of scorching spotlight. She talked about those grandmas and grandpas for weeks - as did her friends.

We'll always remember that day and the smiles our children provided - in celebration of our five-year old's day of birth!

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