The next time you have a birthday in your family, try this super-simple ritual . . . it’s a great way to “unwrap” the gifts of the birthday person.
by Jerry Windley-Daoust
For many years now, our family has celebrated birthdays with a special ritual we call “Why We’re Glad You Were Born.” The ritual is really simple: During the birthday dinner, everyone has a chance to tell the birthday person why they’re glad he or she was born. The point of doing this, of course, is to underline the whole reason for the celebration: gratitude for the gift of the person, and the person’s life.
What’s great about this ritual is it gives family members a chance to say something good about someone in a very intentional, direct way. And having to come up with something to say makes people stop and think about what they like best about the person, which we don’t always make time for in family life. The kid (or adult) on the receiving end, in the meantime, gets to hear, in a very direct and explicit way, the many ways in which they are valued by others in the family. All of this is great practice for the intimate relationships our kids will enter as older teens and young adults.
If take on this practice, here are a few thoughts about how to do it:
- Give everyone a heads up so they have time to think of something. You might announce the ritual at the beginning of dinner, then invite people to speak midway through dinner, or over dessert.
- Have parents and older kids go first, to model the practice for younger kids.
- Yes, our kids have occasionally taken the opportunity to serve up a backhanded compliment or a little dig when talking about a sib with whom they’ve been on the outs. In our experience, it’s always worked out, and as the kids have gotten used to the birthday ritual over the years, we’ve seen them take it more seriously and even look forward to it.\
- If direct eye contact and communication makes your crew break out in hives, make a giant “birthday card” out of large posterboard; hang it on the wall and invite people to write messages for the birthday kid throughout the week.
- Parents with birthdays are fair game for this ritual!
If you want to see this activity in action, check out the video below: