First, a confession: we haven’t been celebrating birthdays at our center. I’ve had every intention for months to write down birthdays and start celebrating, but its just been one of those things that hasn’t happened.
At the workshop last month I was challenged to show value to our kids in new ways- and so the second day we were back we made the time and wrote down all of the kids birthdays. They are now written on a birthday chart on the wall. Geneva had just had her birthday on May 1st and Mudiwa’s was on the 6th. I planned on singing to them on Friday the 6th during Kingdom Kids.
Friday came and our center was full of our regular JP kids and the friends they’re allowed to invite for Kingdom Kids. One of the friends that was invited, little J, lives next door to the center and is extremely small for his age. He looks about the size of a 4 year old, but is much older. While we were doing art before the program started, I asked the kids at my table how old they all were. Little J told me that he was 10. “10?” I exclaimed,“Just a month ago you told me you were 9! When was your birthday?” “Yesterday,” he casually replied, and I gave him a happy birthday hug.
Once the program was about to start, I called Little J and Mudiwa up to the front. Little J resisted and kept telling me that he didn’t do it. It showed me that the only public attention he gets is negative. But he wasn’t in trouble- we were going to celebrate him! Imagine his shock (and delight!) when I announced their birthdays and we all began to sing. I’ve never seen him stand taller!
Geneva came late to Kingdom Kids, and so she didn’t get sung to. (A few days earlier, I had the kids do a writing assignment and share 5 things that make them happy and 5 things that make them said. Geneva wrote that it made her sad when people forgot her birthday. Her birthday had been that past Sunday.) So when Kingdom Kids was over, I called Geneva up to the front. I announced that she was late when we had sung to Little J and Mudiwa, but that her 9th birthday had been the past Sunday and she was so important, we couldn’t leave without singing happy birthday to her.
As we started singing tears welled up in her eyes, and by the time we were halfway through the song, she couldn’t hold back anymore, and was full on crying. My heart broke for her. She’s 9 years old, and cried through her entire happy birthday song. How does that happen? How is a child so forgotten, that celebrating a birthday brings tears instead of smiles?
We’ll continue celebrating every birthday of every child. Because now I realize, we might be the only people in their lives celebrating the day they were born, and singing to them that special song.