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A Meaningful & Fun 18th Birthday

November 5, 2018

There’s something about an 18th birthday – no question its a mile marker, for the parent and the child now turned young adult.  It feels big, and it is.  Eighteen signals a crossing.

Kids who hit this marker will be launching soon from the home, will make decisions about their futures and careers, and will decide who they want to be in this next season of life. They will balance checkbooks, hold real jobs and possibly juggle multiple classes while doing it.

In short, adulting 101 is about to begin.

But before that all starts…. the 18th birthday is a great chance to take a look at what was and what has been:  A commemoration.

For my daughter’s 18th birthday, we wanted her to look forward, but also wanted her to look back.  There were many along her path who played key roles in critical moments, and it felt right to circle these women for this occasion.

So we gathered Kenna’s mentors in secret.  The roster included her Grandma, her aunt, her 5th grade teacher and fellow Wyldlife leader, her distinguished young women coordinator, and two college students who counseled her at summer camp.  It was the perfect sized group.

We didn’t tell her what we were doing or who would be there. We planned to meet at our lake cabin on Friday night.  When she walked down the stairs and into the main room, she was very surprised to see these special faces all in one place. Some of them had never met each other, as they were from different parts of her life.  They were all coming for her. That does make a person feel loved!

We spent that evening doing a craft and rolling out cinnamon rolls.  I made the dough ahead of time, but we finished the process together.  It was a great way to gently enter into the weekend.

The next morning is when we began to dive a bit deeper.  Each mentor had written a letter to Kenna and brought something, an object, for her.  To hear each person read their letter out loud or speak what was in the letter to her was absolutely beautiful. Some offered insights about what they see in her.  Others offered wisdom, advice for the way.  Most included both.

They presented her with their gift that meant something – so personal and individual.

After this time, everyone gathered to pray over our precious girl – over her future, her becoming, her journey ahead.

Then came a time the mentors didn’t expect.  It was my turn as Kenna’s mom to honor THEM.  To tell them what a difference they’ve made in her life.  To express my deepest gratitude for the way they had invested in my daughter during an extremely difficult period:  adolescence.  It’s invaluable.  I wrote five words to describe each of them, and put Luke 6:38 from The Message:

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.

Here is a breakdown of the schedule:

Friday Dinnertime:  Arrive & Dinner

Friday Night:  Craft, Cinnamon Rolls

Saturday Morning:  Breakfast & Hike

Saturday Late Morning:  Sharing & Prayer

Saturday Afternoon:  Lunch for those who could stay

*My sister did this with her son, and it worked equally well.  The only thing they didn’t do was the craft.

That night we came home and I had a dinner for five of her best friends.  

The girls then kidnapped her and took her to spend the night at a hotel room with a pool.  They had decorated the room beautifully and had pictures strung up all over the room.

The last thing we did was present her with a video of people near and far wishing her a happy birthday and giving their best piece of advice or wisdom on her behalf. We were all in tears pretty much as soon as we pushed play.  It was incredibly touching — a keepsake she will have for life!  This was so worth the effort.

I wanted my daughter’s 18th birthday to be special, set apart from the other birthdays she had celebrated.  And it was.

How have you marked your child’s 18th birthday?  


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