This Is What Happens When You Let Your Kids Plan Your Birthday

By Joe Burton

I’m about to have my 49th birthday. Which I always spend with my wife and our two young sons. Jackson and Will are now 9 and 7.

Three years ago, I started a new tradition. I let the kids plan my birthday. And we get exactly what you’d expect.

Two years ago, I took the day off from work. The kids planned miniature golf, pizza for lunch, a video arcade and then we played with my gift… an architectural Lego set of the Trevi Fountain. Last year, it was a movie (Pete’s Dragon), playing in the park (we did the little boys’ version of American Ninja Warrior) and sushi. Yup, that was their choice too.

As a type A personality, I’ve made it a practice to create more situations when I completely let go of control. When you’re not fully present, it’s easy to get caught in routines. One of my more annoying routines is pre-judging how we spend time as a family. It’s easy to be a wet blanket when you’re looking for the perfect hike, the right movie for everyone, the type of cuisine you haven’t had in awhile. And it can stifle the family.

Beyond having a great time by letting go of birthday angst, my wife shared that it’s been amazing for our children. Last year, they spent an hour researching movies, looking at PG and G trailers. They spent several hours at a woodshop class picking out and making the perfect gifts for good old Poppy. They chose to make me a wooden “J” and a heart. And they went onto Yelp to pick a restaurant. That too involved debate and rationale between two little boys with strong opinions.


Posted by Joe Burton- 20 October, 2018

Joe is an entrepreneur in the digital wellness space, former president of Headspace, and spent fifteen years as a global COO in public companies. He's an alumnus of Harvard Business School and a regular contributor to Forbes, Business Insider and The Huffington Post. He's worked in over 50 countries and travels the world speaking on topics including disruption, culture, resiliency and mindfulness.