Saturday, August 8, 2015

Make a Big Deal

I crept quietly, and put my ear to our boys’ bedroom door. The room was still. I tiptoed towards the bunk bed to make sure the coast was clear. Sawyer was sound asleep. It was time to get to work.

I made my way to my bedroom closet where we had hidden seven Mylar balloons, ribbon, and a plastic grocery bag full of small goodies. Quietly, I brought in the balloons one at a time and tied them to the edge of Sawyer’s bed. Just inches from my slumbering son, I was careful not to make a wrong move. The only problem was the little guy stirring in the bed directly below Sawyer. Yes, Wesley was wide awake in the bottom bunk, and was listening to my every move. 

Wesley sat up in his bed.

“What you doin’ Daddy?” he whispered.

Wesley is legally blind with his glasses on, so without them he can barely make out large shapes, especially in the dark. But that doesn’t seem to slow him down much. His hearing is unbelievably sharp, and the sound of the balloons was an unfamiliar one. He turned his head and squinted his eyes, trying his best to figure out what his crazy dad was doing in the dark.

I leaned down and whispered, “Shhh… Daddy has balloons for Sawyer’s birthday.”

“Balloons for Sawyer’s birthday,” he repeated in a hushed tone.

He laid his head back onto his pillow with a big smile. Each time I would bring in another balloon Wesley would ask, “Nother balloon for Sawyer’s birthday, Daddy?”

Despite the curiosity of the toddler below him, Sawyer remained deep in dreams, as I surrounded him with the balloons, and attached a ribbon to the head board of his bed. I unraveled the ribbon and snaked it around his room and down the hallway.

You may be wondering what I was doing weaving a ribbon through our house and surrounding my son in balloons while he was sleeping. Well, to be honest, it’s just another crazy tradition that I have developed over time. Several years back I was brainstorming a fun way I could show my daughter, JulieAnna, that she was special, and that her parents were crazy about her for her birthday. An idea struck me. What if she woke up to balloons surrounding her bed, and a small present on her nightstand on the morning of her actual birthday? Then I thought it would be cool to do one balloon for every year she’s been alive. And just like that a tradition was born. 

About two years ago I made an upgrade to our birthday balloon tradition after reading an idea in book titled Moment Maker by Carlos Whitaker. Carlos also had created a birthday custom, except his involved a really long ribbon. His idea was simply wonderful: Tie a ribbon to his child’s bedpost the night before their birthday, run that ribbon all over the house, hang notes and little prizes along the way, and place one small present at the very end. When his child woke up on their birthday, they would have to follow the ribbon, which would lead them to the notes and prizes, and ultimately their gift at the very end.

I really loved Carlos’ idea, so I decided to merge it with my own. So now, for each birthday, we place the balloons around the bed and run the ribbon through the house with the present at the end. We have found it is a simple and inexpensive way to show your child that they are loved and make them feel special on their birthday.

It may not seem like much, but through the eyes of a child, some balloons and a ribbon are a big deal. And that’s the point really. I think it’s good to make a big deal for the people you love. That’s the reason we celebrate birthdays in the first place. As a way of saying, you are worth celebrating. You are important, and needed, and loved. When we make a big deal of the ones we love, it is not to feed their ego, but to affirm their worth. 

I want my kids to wake up on their birthdays, rub the sleep out of their eyes, see the balloons floating above their head, and know that they are special. I want them to follow the ribbon and read the notes of all the reasons their parents love them. And though I know at their young ages they are more concerned with the present at the end of the ribbon, I hope it’s the words and thoughts that they remember the most. 

As I began to run the ribbon down the hallway, JulieAnna, came to her bedroom door. 

“Is Sawyer already asleep?” she asked with a big grin.

“He sure is,” I replied.

“He is going to be so excited.”

“You think so?” I asked.

“I remember the first time I woke up and saw the balloons all above me. I was like, what is going on?” JulieAnna said with a giggle, “ But then I saw the birthday card and present on my night stand and I figured it out.”

“So do you think you’re too old for it now?” I asked with a sly smile.

“No way!” She snapped, “Every year since that first time I will wake up in the middle of the night just to see if the balloons are there yet.”

I grinned as I taped the ribbon to the wall next to her door.

“So what do you think when you roll over in the middle of the night and see those balloons?” I asked out of curiosity.

JulieAnna thought for a moment.

“It makes me happy, and I know that you love me.”

I gently kissed her on her forehead and she hopped back into her bed.

“It also makes me excited to think what’s at the other end of that string,” she admitted.

I laughed as I continued to run the ribbon. 

As I ran the ribbon through the kitchen, over the light, and into the living room, I thought a lot about what JulieAnna had told me. I began to recall myself as a little boy, and what I remember from my own birthdays. There are a few presents I’ll never forget. There are a couple of birthday themes that were memorable as well (such as Ninja Turtles). But what I remember the most is the acts of love. The memories created by my parents that showed me I was worth celebrating. My Dad and Mom always made my birthdays memorable with games and fun activities, and of course I remember the people; the family and friends who loved me. It is those seeds of love that grow long after the sun sets on your childhood. 

In the day in age of Pinterest birthday parties that are more elaborate than some weddings, I wonder if we are so concerned with all the stuff that makes the party that we forget the important part: the very person we are celebrating. You do not have to have a lot of money in your wallet to make a lasting impression on your child, spouse, friend, or whomever you might be celebrating. Sometimes just giving them your time can be enough. But if you really want someone to know you care, go out of your way to show them. 

The next morning my phone rang at work. 

“Good morning, Daddy,” Sawyer’s voice cracked.

“Good morning, buddy,” I replied.

“Dad, I love you,” 

“I love you too… more than you’ll ever know.”

“I know how much you love me.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, ‘cause you show me.”

A few dollar store balloons, a little ribbon, and a small gift really can go a long way.

Just in case you were curious about what was at the end of the ribbon... a toy for one of Sawyer's video games.

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