Twice a year I find myself gripped by a strange madness driven by one simple question: How can I make this kid’s birthday awesome?!! Maybe you’ve experienced it? It starts with a casual glance at Pinterest for some ideas maybe for a cute Star Wars cake… Twenty hours, and two Boards later, you find yourself at some party store buying ALL THE STUFF! Blue streamers, blue cups, matching napkins, random plastic figurines to throw in a GOODY bag so someone else’s mother will share in your suffering later when she steps on it. Birthday traditions that you might actually enjoy fall by the wayside as you empty your wallet and decide to stock up on wine. Or maybe that’s just me…
Ever since my kiddos got old enough to place their own cake orders with me, I’ve been on the hunt for new birthday traditions that I can actually enjoy that honor their special day without requiring me pull out my credit card or move off of the couch (birthday celebrations are EXHAUSTING!).
Ladies, I think I’ve finally found a tradition worth keeping: the birthday interview.
I got the idea from listening to StoryCorps on the radio. If you haven’t caught one of these yet, I recommend checking them out (maybe start with this one, an interview between a mother & her son about her work). Basically, you put two people together with some interview questions and record their conversation.
I had a chance to test it out sometime after Nell’s 5th birthday. Collapsed on the couch from hosting a pack of her fellow 5 year-olds, I was playing on my phone. When Nell crawled onto my lap and asked me to take a video of her, I turned the camera on her and started to ask her questions. I expected another two-minute video of her mugging for the camera with the requisite giggles and wild dance moves. What I got was a sweet record of my daughter’s most intimate thoughts and dreams at the tender age of 5. Does she still want to be a ballerina dancer five years later? No. Will I love watching her sweet curtsy on announcing her grand jete dreams long into the future? Oh, yes.
When Nell’s younger sister, age two at the time, insisted I also interview her, I had even lower expectations for the value of the exercise. I hit gold here too though as Libby told me she wanted to be a cheetah when she grew up. A cheetah! I had no idea my 2-year-old harbored such ambitions! Not only did I capture this delightful exchange on film, I gained valuable blackmail material for her teen years (Not that I would ever stoop to blackmail. Extortion, on the other hand…).
Over the last few years, the girls and I have fine-tuned the birthday interview process, and we’ve developed the following tips for conducting your own birthday interview:
- Introduce the birthday kid and his or her age.
It’s actually nice to have your voice in the mix too. In this way, the interview becomes a family record you share.
- Ask the same or similar questions each year (see list below).
It’s been fun to track how their answers change over time.
- Let your kid be your kid.
Don’t try to coach them to stand still or even in the frame. If they want to dance, let ‘em dance! Plus, this is the best way to gather embarrassing material to share with their future dates.
- Figure out where you’ll store the video files.
The first couple of years I did these, I didn’t have a plan and some of the files are now MIA. Maybe you want to share the videos on social media, including YouTube. We’ve kept our videos to a family audience only and are storing them on our Google Drive. Definitely check out all your options!
Our interview questions:
- How old are you today?
- What is your favorite thing to do?
- What is your favorite food?
- What’s your favorite thing about school?
- Who’s your best friend?
- What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
- What words of wisdom do you have now that you’re _(age)___?
My girls now look forward to their birthday interview almost as much as their birthday presents and cake. Well, almost! The birthday interview has joined the list of things we love as a family that aren’t things.