Several years ago Peter and I discussed how we were going to celebrate milestones; in particular, which birthdays were we going to use as intentional blessings for our children. We tried a few different things – our oldest two children being our guinea pigs! We came to the conclusion that we would celebrate 18 as a significant birthday, as a milestone, and as an opportunity to encourage our children as they step into adulthood. So far we’ve celebrated 18 three times, one to go.
- To celebrate our child with our community
- To honour them as we tell some of their story through photos and family stories
- To encourage them in who they are and in their future as we give them symbolic gifts
- To pray for them
It has been important for us to gather our community together to celebrate this birthday – a community made up of close friends and wider community friends. Our children have grown up in this community, and the community have been a part of them. In a sense we want to share our joy with our friends, but we also want our friends to embrace our adult children, as they have while they were growing up.
We chose 18 for a few reasons.
- It is the time society accepts a child as an adult. This made sense then to celebrate this particular rite of passage.
- We live in a remote community and have no idea how or where our children will spend their early adult years. We wanted to have a family celebration before they left home – giving them the freedom to be wherever they needed to be by the time they were 21 (which is probably more commonly celebrated).
One of the things we discussed was that the prevalent Australian culture is to embarrass guests of honour on special occasions – be that 21sts or pre-wedding parties. We wanted to be able to honour our children. Any embarrassing stories were told with their full permission! But mostly we wanted to recognise their character, their talents and their heart and we did that by showing family photos and a few speeches.
It has been a delight to see the siblings stand up and honour their brother or sister. It is a flow on from their friendship and desire to show that they do love each other.
Peter and I wanted to give a few symbolic gifts – kind of like a tangible prayer or blessing.
We gave Joshua
- A Bible, a narrated chronological Bible because we wanted to acknowledge that the Bible has been central to our family life and we pray that he will continue to build his life on God’s word, but that he will also build his own family’s life on God’s word.
- A wooden pen – in recognising that Joshua’s passion was to communicate truth we gave him a pen and pray that he will always write truth. The pen was made by a friend from local wood – which symbolised a desire for Josh to remember his roots – his heritage. Our friend, who made the pen, chose a particular wood and converted the characteristics of that wood into a prayer for Josh as well.
- A sword – a replica of the sword of the Australian Lighthorsemen. Joshua is a history buff and we knew he would simply enjoy such a sword (as a decorative, commemorative piece!) But we also want him to remember when he sees this sword that he is to be a defender of truth and a protector of his family.
We gave Jessica:
- A Bible – also to recognise that the Bible has been central to our family life and our prayer is that she continues to dig into God’s word, and hold onto His truth.
- Perfume – as a young woman moving into the beautiful things of the external we wanted to remind Jess to always be a fragrance of worship to God. But also just as we enjoy the waft of a beautiful perfume, that when she comes into a room, a waft of beautiful joy comes into the room as well. We pray that Jess never loses that scent of joy.
- A canvas wordart – Proverbs 31:25 – She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future. Once again, a prayer we have for Jessica – that she is strong and walks with dignity. That she has joy regardless of what lays ahead.
- A quilt – I wanted to let Jess know that even in the transient town where she has grown up, there have been women and girls in her life that have supported her and loved her and that there are such women in her life this day, and that there will always be women in her life to be her friend and to love her, support her, encourage her in wisdom and grace. To express this desire I asked such women to create a quilt block that symbolised something from them to Jess, Naomi helped me fill in some extra blocks and then I pieced the quilt together (with a friend who has always been there for me!)
We gave Naomi:
- A Bible – Naomi is an artists and doodles everywhere – including her Bible. So we gave her a note-takers Bible in a version that she’s wanted to use. She may end up having many such Bibles as she fills the pages with creativity as she ponders God’s word.
- Two words come up often when describing Naomi – Colour and Light. We had two gifts to represent this aspect of her – a Glass candle holder and a knickknack colourful chameleon. May she never forget that as she lives with Jesus, his light shines through her. And, may she always enjoy the colour of life and the colours in life as she explores God’s amazing creation.
- I also wanted Naomi to know the love and support of women in her past, present and promise of future. Jessica and I worked hard to find some way of communicating this that reflected Naomi. Jessica and Naomi are so different in their personality and likes that it wasn’t about just doing a quilt like I did for Jessica. I ended up asking women to give me a quote that reflected Naomi somehow and I created wooden plaques where the artwork blends with each other – creating a wooden quilt in a sense.
- Over the weeks leading up to Nomi’s party she kept hinting, she said: Joshua got a sword, Jessica a quilt, obviously I’m going to get a disco/mirror ball. One morning I woke up and thought – why not! I really had no idea where one would buy a disco ball, but I jumped online and it was easy enough. So yes, her last gift was a disco ball just because she has always wanted one!
We concluded the formal part of the night with praying for the birthday person. I don’t really remember the prayers – certainly not all of them – but that isn’t the point. The purpose of our praying, with our friends, for our children, corporately and publically was to declare that we are both thankful to God for our children, for the joy of having them in our family, for the blessing that their uniqueness brings to our family and to the community. We also want to commit their future to God’s hands. Much like when they were babies we gathered with friends and dedicated them to God – which was in a sense dedicating ourselves to bringing them up to know God and his Word. Now at 18 we are committed them to God’s hands once again, that He would care for them, lead them, provide for them; that they would lean on him and follow him. To do this with our friends was special.
I share all this to encourage you to think how you can celebrate your children. You may choose a different age to celebrate; you may choose a different way, and even have a different purpose. But I am glad that we have been able to do this for all our children (so far), that it isn’t something that we thought of half way through. So if you have a young family, now is the time to start thinking about how you are going to celebrate with your older children.
Here’s a few photos from the kids parties:
Also sharing and linking with others:
Throughout the week I share with one, or more of these blogs (see more details on my Link Parties page)
Monday’s Musings, Thoughtful Spot, Mama Monday Musings, Hip Homeschool Moms Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Coffee and Conversation, Finishing Strong (Middle & Highschool years), Capture your Journey, Thriving Thursdays, Hearts for Home, Shine Blog Hop, All things with Purpose, A Little R & R, From House to Home, Fellowship Fridays, Homeschooling Highschool Linkup, Weekly Wrap-up, Collage Fridays, My Week in Review