Spring is a season of birthdays for our family. Our oldest daughter turned twenty last month, our middle son turned 11 just a few weeks ago and I turned... well let's just say that I recently celebrated another birthday.

When Mark and I were first married we celebrated each other's birthday the way we would want our own birthday celebrated. That launched one of the first disagreements of our young marriage. In the past 21 years of forging a family, we've learned that the way a birthday is celebrated is a gift in and of itself.

Some folks want a big party with as many people as possible. Others want a simple, somewhat quiet celebration with immediate family only. Some love to be surprised. Some hate surprises. Some love homemade and home decorated cakes, while others believe a store-bought, professionally decorated cake is the only way to go.

Do you know how your spouse desires to celebrate each year? Certainly each year can bring about different needs and different celebration desires, but the basics of what a person desires for their birthday rarely changes. Here are some questions to ask your spouse about what they consider the perfect birthday celebration:

1. What flavor of cake do you prefer for your birthday?

2. Do you prefer a store-bought cake or a homemade cake?

3. If you could plan your own birthday celebration, what would you plan?

4. Do you like surprise parties?

5. What is your most memorable birthday? What made it so special?

When I shared these five questions with a group of parents, one husband responded that he wished he had asked those questions before planning a surprise getaway for the two of them for her birthday. Her idea of a perfect celebration was small, intimate and family-centered with homemade cards from the kids and a less than perfect home baked cake. She absolutely hates surprises (like being whisked away for two days!) Not only that but her well-meaning husband had packed her suitcase and forgotten most of what a woman would need for two days away. Needless to say, the two days were disappointing to this mom.

Since that disastrous weekend, they've discovered each other's birthday celebration longings and began to celebrate in the way the birthday person would want to celebrate. This past year she kidnapped him for an overnight getaway in Chicago. It was exactly what he had ordered!

When it comes to birthday gifts, we need to be creative sometimes, too. Not every gift needs to be purchased at a store. When asked by her husband what she wanted for her birthday, my friend Julie requested an overnight by herself at a local hotel. He initially thought she was kidding, but soon realized the sincerity of her request. So that's what he gave her!

She took her scrapbooking project and scrapbooked late into the night, watching every movie she could find on the TV. She then slept in until noon. Knee-deep in mothering young children, this mom's most precious gift was some uninterrupted personal time where nobody had any expectations of her. When she checked out of the hotel and headed back home, she declared that was the best birthday gift she'd ever received!

Another mom shared that for her birthday, her husband gave her five of his vacation days to use anyway she wants through the year. She can take an afternoon off, a weekend away or five straight days while he watches the kids. Now there's a gift that won't have to be returned to the mall!

Regardless of when the next birthday takes place in your family, take some time now to talk about birthday expectations and desires. You might be surprised at what you learn!


Jill Savage (www.jillsavage.org) is an author and speaker. She and her husband live in central Illinois with their five children. Jill serves as the Executive Director of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org), an organization designed to encourage women in the profession of motherhood.