Birthdays at the Mahaney house have always been simple celebrations focused on family time. The birthday boy or girl chooses their favorite dinner menu which they eat on a “You Are Special Today” plate, and we hang a “Happy Birthday” banner over the garage. Over cake and ice cream (or mint chip pie for Kristin and Janelle) we go around the table—often twice—and encourage the honoree.
When each child turns thirteen, we put “simple” aside for the occasion. We mark this entrance into their teen years by challenging them to walk in purity, pursue godly friends, serve in the church, be a difference maker, and live passionately for the Savior. Not that these exhortations aren’t being delivered on a regular basis, because they certainly are! This milestone birthday simply provides another chance to impress these issues on a child’s heart.
Yesterday was Chad’s thirteenth birthday. Over butter-drenched seafood at Red Lobster, CJ and I presented Chad with a notebook, filled with letters from godly men both old and young. Friends of CJ’s, men Chad respects, as well as godly teenagers just a few paces ahead of him all wrote to encourage and charge Chad to honor God with his life. This gift becomes yet another tool CJ and I can use to spur Chad to love Christ more. We will reread these letters with him to remind him again and again of the wisdom they contain.
Parenting requires many things, dependence upon God, faithfulness, and a compelling example to name a few. But it also requires us to be tacticians: to seize any opportunity for gaining ground in the spiritual lives of our children. Birthdays can be just such a golden opportunity.
Now, I am not suggesting that every parent should do birthdays just like we do! I’m sure there are more effective and more creative ideas out there. However, we must all make the most of the brief time we have with our children. We must, in dependence upon God’s grace, make the most of every opportunity to our children’s spiritual advantage. Even birthdays.
PS – Happy birthday my son! I love you, Mom.