Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that

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Coyote23

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Hi folks !

My daughter is turning 10.

I want to make it special, but we have no extended family that is still in our lives because of a mixture of no contact and having been discarded. I grew up a scapegoat in a very large extended family so I saw a lot of examples of kids having huge parties with all the relatives to celebrate graduations, birthdays, watch sports, etc. I also saw how they systematically ignored my accomplishments as a way to punish me for not toeing the line.

So with the lack of healthy extended family, plus the lack of solid healthy role modeling, I seem to be defaulting to comparing myself to friends on social media who have involved grandparents in their kidsí lives. I also see how much help the grandparents, aunts and uncles provideólike even someone else making a salad or picking up balloons would make a huge difference.

So some years I have overcompensated by going all out for my daughterís birthdays. The year she turned seven, my P.D. mom was in the skilled nursing facility and I was terrified she would die on my daughterís birthday. I was pulled from trying to make the birthday special and trying to be a good caretaker daughter and was feeling like a failure at both. That experience burned us both out.

Then thereís Covid and the fact that we are being very cautious and continuing to limit our contacts and will revisit this once my daughter can be vaccinated. This has narrowed our social circle. Sometimes I get really down and feel like nobody cares about us as a family. I donít want my daughter to grow up feeling that way. I am working on my jealousy of people who have healthy extended families. Itís not their fault!

I guess what would help, along with whatever insight you want to pass along, is what you have done in similar situations to make your children feel loved and special, without overdoing it to the point of ruining it with stress, and without the help you might get if you were part of a ďvillage. ď

Thank you, beautiful people.

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square

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2021, 03:06:55 PM »
My two cents is just a different perspective.

I grew up in a good enough family. We were not close to any extended family. Extended family was not there for us in any substantial way. They were just people we saw on rare occasions.

I felt no loss because my parents were adequate.

Some people have wonderful extended families. But they arenít critical to a winderful childhood. Maybe better, but not critical.

I felt special as a kid. Most of my birthdays were just me, mom, dad, a cake, and some presents. I felt seen. I didnít need anything more elaborate.

My kid is growing up even more modestly, because her presents are fewer than mine were. She has informed me she feels happy about her birthdays. I make her a dinner she requests, and the dessert she requests. She gets a present. She feels seen.

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Coyote23

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2021, 02:09:18 AM »
My two cents is just a different perspective.

I grew up in a good enough family. We were not close to any extended family. Extended family was not there for us in any substantial way. They were just people we saw on rare occasions.

I felt no loss because my parents were adequate.

Some people have wonderful extended families. But they arenít critical to a winderful childhood. Maybe better, but not critical.

I felt special as a kid. Most of my birthdays were just me, mom, dad, a cake, and some presents. I felt seen. I didnít need anything more elaborate.

My kid is growing up even more modestly, because her presents are fewer than mine were. She has informed me she feels happy about her birthdays. I make her a dinner she requests, and the dessert she requests. She gets a present. She feels seen.

Thank you for sharing this perspective. It has given me a lot to think about and I appreciate your answer.

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BeautifulCrazy

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2021, 11:54:13 PM »
I don't know if this addresses what you are asking about, but I remembered this thread from a long while back.

https://www.outofthefog.net/forum/index.php?topic=83139.msg718783#msg718783

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Andeza

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2021, 12:43:25 AM »
I grew up with the large family gatherings and birthday parties, etc. But these aren't the fondest memories I have of my childhood. My fondest memories are of getting to spend time fishing with my dad or going to car shows. I think the most important thing you can do for your kid is just be there and be attentive. Phones down, turned off, etc. Just family time.
Remember, that there are no real deadlines for life, just society's pressures.      - Anonymous
Lasting happiness is not something we find, but rather something we make for ourselves.

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BeautifulCrazy

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2021, 02:02:39 AM »
Like Square, when I was growing up, we didn't have big birthdays.
But they were special and lovely and I felt loved and valued.
I got my favorite dinner. I got my favorite dessert. And I got a few gifts. There was nothing expensive or flashy. The beauty was in the details. The cake or dessert would be exactly what I chose, but with a twist to make it personal. A goofy message piped on top of a store bought cake. A homemade cake with an exact shade of frosting. A toy or trinket used as a topper that looked like me, or reflected my interests. One year, I was about 12, I think, they learned to make crŤme brulee because I had read about it in a book, and thought it sounded like heaven on a spoon. (It was!) Not only did they make it, but my dad figured out a way to torch the top so my name was etched in the sugar crust! 
And the gifts.... my parents didn't spend much money, but they spent time and energy. The gifts that my parents chose were special and moving because of how they showed that my mom and dad knew me, saw me, appreciated me. They would find things that were specific to my interests, passions, loves, and abilities. In retrospect, I know that must have taken some time.
Another thing that was always special was the card. My dad, the goofball, obviously chose most of the cards. They were ridiculous. Sometimes they weren't even birthday cards! But they were always something I would think was funny or great. Like the year I was obsessed with Corgi dogs and got a card with silly corgis on the front. The inside was my mom's special magic. She would write several paragraphs outlining my biggest accomplishments and areas of growth over the year and describing the person they saw me becoming, and the things they loved and valued most about me. I always cried reading them.

Right now I am living a few doors down from an Instagram Perfect Family. They have a huge extended family and a big community of friends. People come and go from their home almost every day. They host, and attend, huge get togethers. The endless stream of gorgeous internet pictures shows a life of happiness and plenty. But their tween daughter cuts herself and their sons act out in horrible ways, I suspect because no one really cares about them. Everything is about the image and the spectacle. Are my kids missing out because they don't have that? Comparing is always a dangerous and futile endeavor.
That said, It really IS more difficult as a single parent with no "village".
I know it is. I live that reality too.
But your kids won't feel deprived of that village if they don't know any differently. They won't feel sad, or unsupported, or uncared for, unless you communicate that to them. They will accept as normal, whatever YOU treat as normal, so work with what you have. Your biggest asset is the little things. You are the parent. It might not feel that way, but You Are Enough! I promise!
Overall it is the "day to day" that is more important than any particular day.
That is where you have the most opportunity for expressing how special and loved your daughter is.
Even if you have limited time, resources, energy. Carve out some one-on-one time to talk and to really listen, with undivided attention. Get to know your person. What music they like, who they most admire, what is important to them, what makes them really mad, how they would change the world if they could..... When you are together, ask about their day, ask about their friends. Drop everything for a few minutes to fully engage (even in the middle of making dinner) and let them show you the game they are playing, the thing they drew, the funny meme they saw. For a night owl, have a bedtime ritual where you sit and chat while tucking in. Maybe breakfast together and chat if you have a morning person. Play "Would you rather...?" on your daily drive. Tell them things about your childhood. Tell them things you love about them. Tell them if something they did made you smile, made you laugh, made you furious, made you proud, made you go whaaaat?! Write notes on a chalkboard to them. Make a Saturday morning tradition of pancakes. Or a Friday night sushi habit. Or Sundays cooking dinner. Or Tuesdays swing in the park.
These are the things that make a childhood.
What do you wish your parents had done for you / with you, to show you love, as a child?
What do you wish someone would do for you / with you to show love now?
Do those things.

Sending you virtual love and support Coyote23. All signs point to you being a great parent! You are probably doing much better than you think!

~BC

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notrightinthehead

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2021, 05:52:08 AM »
Wow Beautifullycrazy that is great post! Yes that to all of it!
I can't hate my way into loving myself.

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Amadahy

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2021, 10:34:36 AM »
I know what you mean, Coyote.  I have to be careful not to project what I think I would have loved onto my sons.  They have always been happy to enjoy friends over and parties, sans extended family.  Actually, my PD family was so frigging enmeshed that I'm sure we appeared close, but it was excruciating to not be able to pinpoint what felt so wrong about gatherings that were forced and awkward with a raging Nmom one moment and a perfect hostess the next. I think your daughter knowing you want her to have a special day is pretty darn special and that is what will remain with her all her life. Ten is a crucial age, developmentally.  Maybe have her plan a special outing with just you two -- a girls' day out.  I know covid makes some things challenging, but I bet it can be done and with her doing the planning, it will be special.  xoxo 
Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering.
There's a crack in everything ~~
That's how the Light gets in!

~~ Leonard Cohen

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Coyote23

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2021, 12:29:45 PM »
I don't know if this addresses what you are asking about, but I remembered this thread from a long while back.

https://www.outofthefog.net/forum/index.php?topic=83139.msg718783#msg718783


Oh wow. Iím taking my time with these responses (her birthday is in October) and I finohad a moment to read this. Iím crying! This is so beautiful and sweet and I need to sit with this, not only for birthdays but for every day.

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1footouttadefog

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2021, 02:29:25 AM »
I heard my college age kids talking the other day about how awful it was to go to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese or similar venues when they were little.  Had to laugh with them I always hated it also.

They preferred small parties where it felt safe and not crowded and they actually got to spend time with the birthday kid and did not have to scarf their food down because another crowd was waiting for the tables in a minute. 

For the 10th and 15 ths we took a small overnight trip as a family and visited places they were interested in and ate at a better than usual place.


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Coyote23

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2021, 03:29:10 AM »
I grew up with the large family gatherings and birthday parties, etc. But these aren't the fondest memories I have of my childhood. My fondest memories are of getting to spend time fishing with my dad or going to car shows. I think the most important thing you can do for your kid is just be there and be attentive. Phones down, turned off, etc. Just family time.

This is so true. Thank you.

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Coyote23

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Re: Making your kids feel special when you grew up without that
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2021, 03:37:12 AM »
Like Square, when I was growing up, we didn't have big birthdays.
But they were special and lovely and I felt loved and valued.
I got my favorite dinner. I got my favorite dessert. And I got a few gifts. There was nothing expensive or flashy. The beauty was in the details. The cake or dessert would be exactly what I chose, but with a twist to make it personal. A goofy message piped on top of a store bought cake. A homemade cake with an exact shade of frosting. A toy or trinket used as a topper that looked like me, or reflected my interests. One year, I was about 12, I think, they learned to make crŤme brulee because I had read about it in a book, and thought it sounded like heaven on a spoon. (It was!) Not only did they make it, but my dad figured out a way to torch the top so my name was etched in the sugar crust! 
And the gifts.... my parents didn't spend much money, but they spent time and energy. The gifts that my parents chose were special and moving because of how they showed that my mom and dad knew me, saw me, appreciated me. They would find things that were specific to my interests, passions, loves, and abilities. In retrospect, I know that must have taken some time.
Another thing that was always special was the card. My dad, the goofball, obviously chose most of the cards. They were ridiculous. Sometimes they weren't even birthday cards! But they were always something I would think was funny or great. Like the year I was obsessed with Corgi dogs and got a card with silly corgis on the front. The inside was my mom's special magic. She would write several paragraphs outlining my biggest accomplishments and areas of growth over the year and describing the person they saw me becoming, and the things they loved and valued most about me. I always cried reading them.

Right now I am living a few doors down from an Instagram Perfect Family. They have a huge extended family and a big community of friends. People come and go from their home almost every day. They host, and attend, huge get togethers. The endless stream of gorgeous internet pictures shows a life of happiness and plenty. But their tween daughter cuts herself and their sons act out in horrible ways, I suspect because no one really cares about them. Everything is about the image and the spectacle. Are my kids missing out because they don't have that? Comparing is always a dangerous and futile endeavor.
That said, It really IS more difficult as a single parent with no "village".
I know it is. I live that reality too.
But your kids won't feel deprived of that village if they don't know any differently. They won't feel sad, or unsupported, or uncared for, unless you communicate that to them. They will accept as normal, whatever YOU treat as normal, so work with what you have. Your biggest asset is the little things. You are the parent. It might not feel that way, but You Are Enough! I promise!
Overall it is the "day to day" that is more important than any particular day.
That is where you have the most opportunity for expressing how special and loved your daughter is.
Even if you have limited time, resources, energy. Carve out some one-on-one time to talk and to really listen, with undivided attention. Get to know your person. What music they like, who they most admire, what is important to them, what makes them really mad, how they would change the world if they could..... When you are together, ask about their day, ask about their friends. Drop everything for a few minutes to fully engage (even in the middle of making dinner) and let them show you the game they are playing, the thing they drew, the funny meme they saw. For a night owl, have a bedtime ritual where you sit and chat while tucking in. Maybe breakfast together and chat if you have a morning person. Play "Would you rather...?" on your daily drive. Tell them things about your childhood. Tell them things you love about them. Tell them if something they did made you smile, made you laugh, made you furious, made you proud, made you go whaaaat?! Write notes on a chalkboard to them. Make a Saturday morning tradition of pancakes. Or a Friday night sushi habit. Or Sundays cooking dinner. Or Tuesdays swing in the park.
These are the things that make a childhood.
What do you wish your parents had done for you / with you, to show you love, as a child?
What do you wish someone would do for you / with you to show love now?
Do those things.

Sending you virtual love and support Coyote23. All signs point to you being a great parent! You are probably doing much better than you think!

~BC

Whew! You made me cry twice.  :stars: In a good way. WowÖ.thank you for the little vote of confidence. I think thatís what I needed to hear the most-that Iím probably doing better than I think. Although I will definitely be stealing many of these ideas! And focusing on the impact I make by being present in the day to day.