I answered a question from a Disney guest this morning on the Moms Panel site. I’m not quoting exactly, but her question went something like this, “We’re celebrating my son’s birthday at Walt Disney World and he’ll be receiving lots of attention and surprises. My daughter will be watching all the while. How can I make it special for her?”
My initial reaction, as you might imagine, was that any child who isn’t fall-down grateful for a trip to Walt Disney World has bigger troubles than feeling special on her brother’s birthday. I don’t think anyone can dispute that. There are variables, of course, and in this guest’s defense, her daughter might be too young to understand the concept of selflessness.
The question struck me though. I can’t help but feel as though that particular mindset illustrates a problem we Americans could use some work on.
I’ve never been a particularly coddling type of parent. Fiercely I love my children, but I believe it’s important for them to know that the universe spins on whether they are happy or not. Oh and don’t even get me started on those birthdays in which siblings receive gifts too, so as not to feel left out. Would someone please hand me a spoon so I can gag myself with it?
It’s not that I’m a birthday scrooge. Not by far. I will be the first to show up at your door with a gift in celebration of your birthday. The years we are blessed with here on Earth are worth celebrating. I want to feel honored and loved on my birthday and I want to gift those same feelings to the people I know and love. There is truth to the old adage, after all, that giving is better than getting. I would even take it a step further and say that when it comes to parenting, missing the opportunity to teach gratitude and selflessness on a sibling’s birthday is a #bigfail.
In the end, to that guest’s question I offered an answer that encouraged this mother to use the opportunity to enlist her daughter’s help in pulling off a big surprise for the son/brother. Kids love that sort of thing! Now that they are old enough, my two teens ask each year if they can help put out the Santa gifts on Christmas Eve. Truly, they love the chance to be part of a joyful surprise for their little sister and brother. And while I don’t know her personally, I would be willing to bet that given the opportunity, this Disney-bound sister would reap that same joy after surprising her brother in honor of his birthday. I would like to hope so, at least. Lest we truly are raising a generation in dire need of intervention.