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They Say It's Your Birthday

Readers share how they celebrate their children's birthdays

While planning my daughter Peyton's first birthday, I decided to get her a birthday hat. All I could find were fancy, expensive hats, so I made her one. Since her birthday is October 26th we were celebrating with a Halloween party, and so the hat fit the theme. Now that she's older, she chooses themes and colors and helps with the process — and her younger sister, Avery, gets a hat on her birthday too. They keep their hats on a shelf in their room and enjoy trying them on again.— Christine Patrick, New Jersey

I took a box of birthday cards numbered 1 to 21 to the baby showers for my first child. My guests were asked to pull a card out of the box and, based on the number they drew, write a birthday greeting and words of wisdom for that age. We ended up with at least three cards for each of Elizabeth's first 21 years. — Gina Eggebrecht, Arkansas

Birthdays are "everything yes days." This year for our 2-year-old, the "yeses" included cheetah pajamas all day, playing blocks for two hours with Mommy and Daddy, her favorite Rolie Polie Olie episode three times in a row, and macaroni and cheese, a drumstick, and applesauce for dinner. We used to call this "do what you want day," but we renamed it "everything yes day."— Sarah Dyer, New York

For our second son's first birthday we went back to the NICU where he stayed after he was born. We visited with the nurses, doctors, and support staff and gave them a present. We hope to take Hunter back every year — after all, if not for their team, there would be no birthday to celebrate!— Meredith Escala, New Jersey

My parents would take just the birthday child out to any restaurant they wanted — as long as it used real silverware. I remember trying exotic foods (frog legs, anyone?) and having adultlike conversations with my parents (impossible when surrounded by the busyness of everyday life and siblings). I plan to continue this tradition with my children as soon as they get past the "run screaming from the table when you're finished eating" stage.— Elizabeth Hickerson, Kentucky

I fill my children's rooms with one to two dozen helium balloons while they're asleep, so that balloons are the first thing they see on their birthday.— Debbie Palmer, California

For the past two years our family has ventured to historic Lake Park in Milwaukee to take my son's photo alongside the large lion guarding the southwest corner of the bridge — in the very same location my husband proposed to me.— Shannon Schultz, Wisconsin

When the table is set, we throw a blanket over the birthday kid's chair to make it into a throne, and we use china for the place setting. This tradition started in my own childhood. By the time I turned 12 (I was kid number seven), there were only two goblets and a gravy boat left! (It was fun even without the plates.)— Abbey Fluckiger, Utah

I started a new ritual on my son's fourth birthday: I wrapped his presents (one for each year) and placed them throughout the house. I slid the first one under his door; the next one was in the bathroom; the third in the microwave (where I knew he'd go to warm the syrup for his pancakes); and the last on his chair at the table.— Mary Kay Halston, Illinois

Every year since our daughter's first birthday, we have gone to "Gran-Gran and Buh-Pa's" in Bayfield, Wisconsin. We go to town to buy saltwater taffy, play at the beach, and get ice cream from the local dairy to top the birthday cake. We told Anika she could have a party with her friends for her fourth birthday, but she promptly said she wanted to "go to Bayfield instead!"— Meghan Brzozowski, Wisconsin

When I was growing up, my mother would ask me what I wanted my birthday cake to be. One year I asked for a Rubik's Cube, and she was up half the night baking layers of cake. Hopefully when my boys ask for the equivalent of a Rubik's Cube, I'll be ready!— Ellery Smith, Connecticut

We have a "birthweek," with parties at the beginning and end of the week (one with friends and one with family). We celebrate throughout the week with candles in muffins for breakfast and favorite foods for dinner.— Katy Asay, Wyoming

Every year for my son Zachary's birthday party, we take a picture of him from that year and blow it up to poster size. Then all the guests write birthday notes on it.— Debby Wolf, New Jersey

All through the preschool years, and continuing on as my children grew older, I gave them a book rather than a birthday card. Initially, the books were picture books, followed by chapter books and eventually novels. Inside the front cover I would write them a letter summarizing the special events, milestones, and experiences of the past year and my wishes for them for the coming year.— Frank Trnka, Minnesota

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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