As the Tardis twisted and turned, the children squealed with delight. This device, based off of Dr. Who's time travel machine, deposited 8 children into the 1700's where they were challenged to move a variety of house hold items across the "Wild Wild West" on horseback. In reality, the "Tardis" was two boxes connected together, latched to a dolly so we could move them around, and the Wild Wild West was a bunch of blankets laid out in our back yard. The horses? Well, each child had to be a horse on all 4's while another child rode on their back.
|Ryan exiting the Tardis with his robot buddy|
|Reese (the cowboy) and Carter (the horse) moving west|
We just celebrated Reese's 9th birthday... it was phenomenal... I'm sure that Ron and I had as much fun as the kids. For the past 4 years, we have created Super Hero Training Camps, Jedi Training Academies, Detective/Mystery Challenges, and now a Time Travel Adventure where the kids built a robot, visited multiple time frames in history (Wild West and Gold Rush) and future (asteroids destroying the earth), and outsmarted the futuristic robot in order to collect Reese's stolen birthday presents!
These birthday parties require a lot of work, especially if we are not going to spend a lot of money putting it together (which we don't... this years party budget, including food, was $50). Is it too much? People are pretty opinionated about this... other adults are either so excited that they too want to come or others think it's absolutely ridiculous.
So, why does this mom and dad, who usually keep things pretty frugal and simple, go to such extremes for a one-day event?
Proverbs 22:6 says to "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." This passage is referring to training up a child in the way he/she is uniquely wired by God. Biblical morals and values are non-negotiable, but each child needs to be uniquely guided and taught.
Four years ago, after losing Elliot, I woke up one day realizing our family was in need of some serious fun, and it needed to be in a way that would really connect with Reese - hence, the Super Hero Training Camp evolved. As we brainstormed and planned, my son's heart and mind came to life. He was in his zone, and it was beautiful.
Many parents get to connect with their kids through sports or other extra-curricular activities - they may spend several nights/week going to practices, missing dinner, paying money to participate, but it's worth it because a parent feels their child is learning many life skills through these activities.
Reese is not that kid, and finding extra curricular activities for him is challenging. He is very intelligent and incredibly creative - developing amazing stories - then acting them out or writing them. He is not extroverted, and he does love his friends and family deeply. His love language is most definitely quality time - especially if it is at his house where he can share his thoughts, ideas, and story lines with those he loves.
Party preparation and party day touches on so much of his unique wiring - all while he is learning important skills.
- Time management/perseverance/hard work - Planning a party like this does not happen over night. He begins planning with me MONTHS in advance. Starting so far in advance can get exhausting and at times we want to give up, but, when we keep our "eye on the prize" it helps us persevere!
- Stewardship - We create only a small budget (even when we had more money). This year we tapped into our local furniture stores for large boxes to create the time machines, and we collected toilet paper roles and vegetable cans in order to create robots.
- Organization/planning/communication - Reese is always in charge of the invitations. This allows him to use his creativity, but also makes him think through things like how long should the party last, is an RSVP important, etc.
- Physical fitness/teamwork/problem solving/patience - Each year we create a variety of obstacles that require each of these skills. There is a certain competitiveness with each obstacle, but it also requires them to help and encourage their teammate.
- Ability to fail with dignity - After so much planning and dreaming, it is most certain that something will not turn out as planned or some kid is not going to like it. Reese has learned that this is okay... we can still have an amazing time without everything being perfect.
- Contentment/Gratitude - Reese can get very detailed in his own mind/creativity about how things should be designed or built, but, lets face it, we are using toilet paper rolls to construct - so he doesn't always get exactly what he wants. Reese has learned that when he chooses to be grateful, despite things not being perfect, that the party is waaaaay better! He is honestly incredibly grateful for all of this.
Party prep is our "sports season". We do not spend party prep season treating Reese like a king. We do not do everything he wants. It doesn't always turn out perfect. This time has been spent teaching valuable life skills and Biblical principles all while Reese utilizes his natural gifts and talents and shares them with others - the kids in the neighborhood start talking to us about the party long before it gets here :). Honestly, by doing these parties, I feel as if I'm honoring God by saying, "Lord, you didn't make Reese like me... You made him just the way you wanted him, and I love it!"
So, is it too much? Nope - its just right... at least for now.