“How Many Sleeps…?”

We all know what it’s like to have a child anticipating a big day. It’s difficult for anyone to think clearly and focus when there are things like a birthday, holiday or big vacation coming up, but it’s especially distracting for kids. Thank goodness we have a concept that helps them count down the days while also encouraging a good night’s sleep!

While counting down the “sleeps” helps to relieve our kids’ anxiousness, the big thing that helps us as parents is getting the plan together and finishing all of the preparations. In the case of birthdays, there are many things to do beforehand, and the relief doesn’t come for us until the party is over and everything was a success.

My family has an intense party season between the end of October and March. During this time we have a birthday, Halloween, another birthday, Thanksgiving, another birthday, Christmas, New Year, another birthday and then another birthday. It’s a lot to celebrate and be thankful for, but geez, by the end of that, it’s time for some rest.

While we enjoy celebrating these occasions, my wife and I also realize there can be a lot of stress during this period. Sometimes we make things harder than necessary by putting too much pressure on ourselves to make everything big and perfect. We’re starting to appreciate smaller and different ways of celebrating.

The typical thing to do for kids’ birthdays is to have a big party with all of their friends. The problem with this is that sometimes we cannot invite everyone. Last year, I kicked this big party idea to the curb for my daughter’s birthday. I told her she could invite two friends to join us for a trip to Alpamare water park. Afterwards, we had dinner and cake back at our place. It was a fun way to celebrate her birthday without all of the craziness. It was a relief to try something different and know that it was just as enjoyable.

There are many ways to celebrate in a low-key manner and still have it be a memorable occasion. A dinner and sleepover with a best friend always seems to be appreciated. Really, any idea that involves a smaller group and quality time together can be just as special as a big party.

I’ve never been into throwing a big party for myself, although I love big parties for my friends. I turned 40 last year and wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t come up with any original party ideas so I skipped it completely. Instead, I took my family on a big road trip that I’ve always wanted to do with them. It was nice to transform one big day into a longer stretch of time to make many good memories.

I know there are only so many memorable occasions that stand out from a person’s childhood. Some of these are big events while others are simple moments that leave lasting, warm memories that are never forgotten. I hope my children are learning that life is not about reluctantly speeding through daily tasks just to get to the next big party. It is more about recognizing smaller joys and slowing down to celebrate these moments more regularly.

In the last year or so, my wife and I have made time to take each of our children out for a day alone with one of us. It has given us opportunities to try new things with each child and learn what makes them happy. I think this helps them recognize aspects of life that may someday become their passions – things that will make every day a reason to celebrate.

My family has a lot to celebrate when the seasons change from fall to winter. We love winter activities and we also love cheese fondue. As soon as we see snow in the mountains, we declare “fondue season” open and indulge in its goodness at the first opportunity. It’s our funny little way of making a big deal out of the small things that we look forward to at this time of year.

By Brian Wilson

Brian is the father of three children. He teaches golf and coordinates a Zurich Dads group in his spare time. email: bwilsoniag@gmail.com

Illustration by Sharanya Mageshwaran

Sharanya Mageshwaran is a stay-at-home mom of a very naughty three-year-old who speaks better German than her mother does. Before moving to Zurich, Sharanya was a pharmaceutical research scientist in India. She loves painting and sketching with fauvist expressionist abstract themes. More of her artwork can be see here: http://somelightandcolor.blogspot.ch/

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