Saturday, 30 July 2011

A very special birthday party

Often times my clients report one of two scenarios when it comes to birthdays; either, they are utterly unable to fathom how their child might respond to a b-day bash and would have no idea how to anticipate his or her actions in the novel environment, making it very hard to relax therefore usually coming to the decision to avoid or  that they do not attend birthdays because they simply do not get invited to birthday parties.

Either way, not ideal for the child who at some point, will be exposed to a birthday party type situation and should definitely know what to expect and how to respond and dare I say, how to have a good time.

I have supported several birthday parties over the years; it is something so meaningful for me to be a part of.

I love to be able to demonstrate to parents and family how receptive their child is at any given moment; to demonstrate effective ways of engaging with the child that is on his or her terms,  facilitate peer relationships and most importantly, increase overall understandings and acceptance.

I started this beautiful long weekend off with a birthday party that I just had to write about; from the moment you entered the party you could feel that it was a safe space (from the note on the door that said "come on in we're in the back" to the thoughtfully orchestrated party and visual representations of birthday party fun and the name tags so everyone felt comfortable). The children in attendance, were predominantly accompanied by their parent or parents; some were typical, others were exceptional.

Set up in the backyard was a bubble station, a digging station, a water table, a launch pad (very cool cause and effect toy; when you jump on it, it launches a rocket 20 ft. into the sky), colouring and balloon crafts, pin the tail on the donkey, a pinata, a dress up path and even a mineral science garden. Everything worked so well because it was set up for the kids to explore, without any pressure or timeline in mind. For some it was the first birthday they had gone to, for others it was the first successful birthday they had ever made it through.

Family and friends alike, everyone came together over an outdoor dinner and as the kids played, the parents found support in each other's company and two and a half hours later, everyone was still having a blast. Every child had his or her moments, every parent dealt with it differently, but every child and parent was accepted unconditionally into the party, and it was clear from the get go. The sense of community that emerges when like-minded people gather, is truly inspiring. What an incredible way to begin the long weekend, and can you believe this is my job!? I am incredibly lucky!

Birthday parties are controlled way to expose your kids to a social norm that can be tons of fun when you know what to expect; the biggest injustice you can do is to assume that your child wouldn't want to go, or wouldn't have fun. Whether or not you truly understand the way your child(ren) interact with the world, you owe it to them to expand their horizons and allow them to interact in whatever way they choose, with as many circumstances as life allows.

Again and again, photos from

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