Celebrating My Boys' Birthdays

Both my boys had birthdays within the past week. If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know that I have a tradition of making my kids a fun and frugal birthday party. It's important for me, even when money is tight, for my kids to know that they are my priority, and I'll do what I can to show how much they matter to me and to celebrate their presence in my life.

But then the last few years haven't been easy ones, to be honest. First I was struggling pretty mightily with mental health issues (though I kept mum about it at the time because I was afraid of being judged) and then I was struggling to balance it all as a new and self supporting full time working single mom. So even though my kids mattered to me just as much and I wanted to do what I could to celebrate their birthdays, I didn't get around to making them birthday parties (and felt quite rotten about it). Midway through this last year things finally calmed down enough that I told my boys I could make them a very belated birthday party but they told me that it would be quite awkward and asked me not to. So I told time that when their next birthday comes, I'd make it up to them and do something really special.

And that was today.
Lee turned 12 on September 4 and Ike turned 10 on the 8th.

I left the ball in my kids' court and had them choose what type of something special they wanted to do. Did they want me to take them and a few friends on a fun trip, like rock climbing, to a sports game, laser tag, bowling, etc... In the end they decided that they'd rather have a special day with me, with a few different fun things. I offered to take them out of school that day but Lee didn't want to miss school for this, so we chose to do this on a Tuesday, the day that he ends school earliest.

Originally the plan involved taking my children to a local museum, then to a restaurant, and then a movie. But then I found out that the museum only opened at 4 pm on Tuesdays (and was free for kids on Tuesdays) so we couldn't fit that into our schedule, but we decided to take a family trip there another day...
We ended up having bus issues because of road closures so it took us longer to get our day started...

But in the end, even with the changes of plan it ended up being really amazing.

We started out at a restaurant (I let the boys pick which one) and because it was early enough in the day we ended up being able to get the 'business lunch' combo, which included an appetizer, drink, and a meal for very cheap. And of course I got my boys dessert that got served with sparklers on top and the wait staff singing them happy birthday. And it was so much food for such a good price that my kids weren't able to eat it all so took home a full sized meal for each of them.

After the meal we had a bit of time before the movie started. We looked around the mall where the theater was and saw this mini trampoline park. I asked them how much it cost and for how long and they said that they were open until late and kids can come and go as much as they like until they closed. And the price was decent so why not?

Lee and Ike had fun jumping around on the trampolines until it was time to go for the movie.

The movie I chose really happened by process of elimination. There weren't many kids movies being shown, only Angry Birds 2 and Lion King, and my boys opted out of those two, and of the other options the only thing playing at a time that worked for us was Where'd You Go, Bernadette? I looked it up on common sense media beforehand to make sure it was a type of movie I'd feel comfortable showing to my kids, but even though there were some slightly mature topics (discussion of drugs and suicidalness) I felt ok watching it together with them.

It ended up being a really, really good choice, in my opinion. Without giving away the whole movie, the premise was something my kids and I were able to relate to: a mother struggling with her mental health and seeing how it affected her family. The entire story was narrated and told from the perspective of the 13 year old daughter. And throughout the whole story you see the close bond mother and daughter shared, and you see the mother finding out a way to help her go on a healing journey. I actually highly recommend this movie, especially if you're a mom who struggles with her mental health. (My boys also enjoyed it, and considered it part of a great birthday celebration, but I enjoyed it more than they did.)

After the movie, the boys went back to the trampoline park and jumped some more until it was time to go home.

No, this wasn't the cheapest day. But my kids are worth it. And life isn't always about how little you can spend ever, but about making the best life you can with the money you have. And this was certainly putting my money to good use.

How do you celebrate birthdays with your family?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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