My two youngest had birthday’s this month. My second son turned four at the beginning of the month, and my baby turned two last week. For Evan’s birthday I took the older two boys “cellar shopping” – that is, we went into the cellar to look at all the toys down there to find some things to give Evan for his birthday. It was, as far as I’m concerned, hugely successful. The older boys got a chance to be more active in gift giving that usual, since I’m leery of letting them loose in a store only to shoot down everything they choose (“too expensive,” “too complicated,” etc.). They could choose pretty much anything. They could pick something for themselves, if they wanted to. And Evan was thrilled with his gifts, which he never remembered seeing before. There was nothing he needed, but not having presents, even for a two-year old, didn’t feel right to me, and the older kids wouldn’t have let me get away with that!
I struggle with birthday traditions – I never feel that I’m doing enough. Starting this year, we have a birthday scavenger hunt first thing in the morning, with a present or two along the way and at the end. Then the birthday child gets some special preferences during the day (these are not well defined!). And they get to pick what we have for dinner. We have a birthday outing near the birthday (the March birthdays were combined into one outing, to the Boston Children’s Museum). The party is multi-generational, with one set of grandparents, aunt, cousin, a local family we're friends with, and our neighbor. We don't include a lot of other children. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to keep excluding friends forever but it works for now. I'm totally stressed out by birthday parties, so I need to keep it simple!