Kids sure do love their birthdays.
As I write this, my wife and I are in the midst of planning a birthday party for our two sons. They are turning 9 and 7. Their birthdays are within two weeks of each other, and since they are so close in age, they share many of the same friends. So, we’re able to do a bit of a two-for-one deal.
That said, I’m a bit embarrassed about how much we spend to rent out a space; provide enough food, drinks, party favors, a cake and games; and last but not least a gift for each of our boys. But here’s the thing I’ve learned about birthdays that no one really talks about — there’s serious pressure to put on a great party to make sure our kids feel celebrated.
And there is a lot of pressure to make sure my sons’ friends and their parents are comfortable and have fun! Internally, other parents may ask themselves:
“Will my kid be safe here?” “Will he have a good time?” “Are these kids and families a good influence on my child?” “Will I have to invite these kids to my kid’s birthday party?” “What kind of party will I have to throw?”
Despite all that pressure, whether a party is extravagant or simple, as a dad I know the effort is worth it. I take pride in the fact that my wife and I intentionally celebrate our children because celebrating our children builds their self-esteem and points them toward the truth that their lives have value and purpose.
Children living in extreme poverty rarely get to be celebrated. Many of their stories that I hear are the same. On their birthday, their families might say, “Happy birthday!” and sing a song, but there’s no party … there are no friends … there’s no food, fun and gifts … there’s no celebration.
And it’s not because parents living in poverty don’t want that for their children — they do! But, as Compassion alumnus Edgar in the Dominican Republic remembers about his birthdays before he was sponsored, “When you’re so hyperfocused on doing what’s necessary just to have enough for your next meal, there isn’t much room for anything else.”
Parents living in poverty still want the best for their children. If they could, they would do everything you and I do to celebrate our own kids, too. That’s why it’s such a big deal when sponsors remember to celebrate their sponsored child’s birthday!
When sponsors give their sponsored children birthday gifts, it creates the margin for a family in poverty to shift that focus and be able to celebrate. And when that happens, parents and caregivers feel a whole mix of emotions.
Just read these five quotes from moms on how wonderful it was to be able to celebrate their child’s birthday:
1. Delmi, mother of 10-year-old Lorielky in the Dominican Republic
“If Lorielky’s sponsors had not sent us these gifts, we would not have been able to celebrate the life of our beloved daughter and make her happy. Lorielky loves them (her sponsors) so much, and so do we.”
Lorielky is sponsored by Jimmy and Tracey, who live in Alabama.
2. Margarita, mother of 8-year-old Josue in El Salvador
“It was an important detail because I can celebrate my son’s birthday. I know that it’s an important moment, and as a mother, it is something that I cannot give him. It feels nice that others help us.”
Josue is sponsored by Taraleigh, who lives in Arizona.
3. Carmen, mother of 2-year-old Dara, 9-year-old Ashley and 12-year-old Emily in Ecuador
“We were happy and excited to have a birthday cake and celebrate with our daughters. God is good. He never abandons us.”
Ashley is sponsored by Rylee, who lives in California.
4. Martha, mother of 8-year-old Frank in Rwanda
“We have received so many gifts from Frank’s sponsor. Before, my husband and I didn’t know the importance of celebrating our children’s birthdays, and we didn’t have the resources to buy them gifts. … Our wish is for Frank’s sponsor to come and visit us so she can see for herself the change in our household.”
Frank is sponsored by Cathy, who lives in Missouri.
5. Araceli, mother of 7-year-old Iris in Mexico
“Iris used to tell me how other children received presents from their sponsors and always asked if she would ever receive one. I felt joyful seeing my daughter’s face when she opened her present.”
Iris is sponsored by Phil and Jill, who live in Texas.
When sponsors send a gift donation for their sponsored children’s birthdays, staff at each of their Compassion centers consult with a parent or caregiver to get the child a gift he or she wants or needs most. And they help with the process of celebrating so that the sponsored child gets to feel the overwhelming joy of what it’s like to be celebrated.
Every child should know the joy of being celebrated. And every parent should know the pride of being able to provide the experience. Sponsors who give a birthday gift make it possible.
This year especially, a gift will be such a welcome blessing. The pandemic has caused many parents and caregivers to lose their regular sources of income. Sending a birthday gift also sends a message that even during hard times, they are loved and supported.
If you’re a sponsor and you’d like to send your sponsored child a birthday gift, please click here.