How We Made Birthday Magic, Literally and Figuratively

how we made birthday magic, literally and figuratively

It was April 2020, just a few weeks into the worldwide shutdown and my son’s 11th birthday was approaching. Like all the other moms in this situation, I was trying to figure out how we would celebrate and make the day special. The birthday boy would be stuck at home with the exact people he was spending every single day with. There would be no in-person party with friends, no restaurants, no fun excursions. Just us.

Thankfully, I can bake a great cake, and Amazon was delivering gifts, but I needed that wow-surprise factor to liven up the sullen mood of the household.

Birthday Magic – Literally

At that time, Gavin was really into learning all kinds of magic tricks.  He spent endless hours on YouTube watching card tricks, practicing and performing for his audience of mom, dad and brother, and lucky family members over FaceTime.  “Pick a card, any card….” was the soundtrack of my early pandemic days. 

I decided for Gavin’s birthday, we were all going to lean in to what he thought was cool at the time and surprise Gavin with a magic show. With a full 48 hour warning, my husband, my 13 year old, and I agreed to each secretly learn a magic trick. Then on his birthday, we would perform a little magic show for the birthday boy. 

There was no pomp and circumstance. No production or decoration. Just the 4 of us sitting in the family room, laughing and asking for do-overs when our tricks failed. 

I don’t remember any of our tricks. I just remember that Gavin was in awe that we did that for him. It cost NOTHING. It took just a little bit of time. But it was completely amazing and he still brings it up on a regular basis to remind us how much he loved it. It was so simple, but definitely accomplished the goal of special birthday memories!

Birthday Magic – Figuratively

I get it, not every kid is a future Phil Dunphy magic-lover, but stick with me for a minute. The REAL magic was in getting the whole family involved in what the birthday kid loved at that time. It makes them feel special. It validates their interests. It makes them feel important. It makes them feel good to share their interests with the people they love the most. 

So, if you’re looking for a way to celebrate in a simple way, without a party, think about what your child loves the most.  How can you get the WHOLE family involved in that thing, if even just for a short time on their birthday? 

  • If they love video games, can the whole family play together (even if it’s the last thing you really want to do)?
  • If they love getting crafty, can the whole family agree to an afternoon of PlayDoh?
  • If they are sporty, can the whole family go in the back yard or to the park for a soccer match?
  • If they love baking, can you bake some sugar cookies and decorate them together as a family?  

What We Learned from Quarantine Birthday Celebrations

Our less-than-amateur magic show was born out of desperation for something special during pandemic lockdown and it worked out great for us. There was a lot of forced creativity that came out of the awful situation of quarantine. I don’t want to minimize all of the terrible and lasting effects of the Covid era, but in this situation, I am looking at birthdays specifically. 

I can’t even tell you how many posts I was from friends on social media where they celebrated a child’s birthday at home with cake and presents (because we literally couldn’t do ANYTHING ELSE) and the kids still said it was the “best birthday ever!”

Without the option of a big party or going somewhere special to celebrate, the only option was to spend quality time with the immediate family and I think kids largely proved that love and attention are sometimes all they really need to make a great birthday (and cake and presents, obviously).

Waving my magic wand and giving you parting words of encouragement…

Of course birthday parties with lots of friends and family are great and I totally encourage that if it makes sense for you. But, if you are feeling the need for a smaller, quieter celebration for whatever reason, I’m sprinkling some magic dust on you so that you can feel calm and confident in knowing that you can have a small celebration and still make it special and memorable. 

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