How to throw a birthday bash for your parent

Honor your loving parent on his or her big day with a special celebration. Whether you plan an intimate gathering or a rowdy fiesta, your mom or dad will love the gesture.

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  • When my mom turned 60 a few years ago, my kids and I had a blast creating the tacky decorations for her birthday party. Black balloons, gruesome Halloween masks, and insulting posters adorned our home’s walls and front door.

  • My mom was a good sport about our attempts to tease her on her milestone birthday. Depending on your parent’s age and temperament, the sky's the limit on how to help celebrate her special day.

    • Dinner on you
  • I know this is an obvious yet very popular option. Eating and celebrating go hand-in-hand, so treat your birthday Ma or Pop to a lunch or dinner. Let the guest of honor pick the place, or surprise him with an eatery he’s always wanted to visit. Whether you invite a crowd or enjoy an intimate meal, your parent is sure to appreciate the gesture.

    • Curtain Call
  • An evening at a concert or the theater always feels special. Surprise your parent with a couple of tickets to a fun musical or the symphony. She’ll be sure to sing her praises.

    • Ticket out of town
  • Perhaps your father’s favorite place in the world is New York City or Memphis. Maybe Mom is itching for a Caribbean cruise. Whether the destination is an hour or a day away, pool resources with your siblings and send Mom, Dad or both on a diverting night or week-long trip.

    • Bowl them over
  • Invite your parents and other loved ones to bowl the night away. Reserve a few lanes, tote along a sheet cake and presents and have a ball.

    • Happy Days
  • Wax nostalgic with a 1950s-themed sock hop. Dig out some old photos of your mom or dad to display. Collect tunes from the 1950s (preferably vinyl records), and decorate with hula-hoops, a red-checked tablecloth, and a cardboard jukebox (unless you have the real thing). Serve burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Then, rock and roll in poodle skirts and leather jackets.

    • Use the grandkids
  • Several years ago for an anniversary party for my parents, my siblings and I gathered our kids to rehearse a special number for the celebration. It was simple but adorable. The kids dressed up and sang “You Are My Sunshine.” A musical number is memorable for everyone and takes little effort. Why not plan a mini concerto for a birthday surprise?

    • Potluck party with a twist
  • This is another party staple. Who doesn’t love a potluck? Coordinate the main dish, sides and dessert among family members and friends. Then, enjoy a cozy birthday dinner at home. Change it up with a special theme, such as a Hawaiian luau, Mardi Gras bash, Asian, Mexican, an Italian get-away, or a fondue dinner. For entertainment, pull out board games or play “Who’s That Ancestor?” with old family photos.

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  • Whatever your budget or schedule allows, honor your wonderful birthday parent with a thoughtful surprise or celebration. Whether you plan to party hard or celebrate small, your gesture is sure to enhance your parent’s special day.

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Megan Gladwell, a freelance writer and sometimes teacher, lives in beautiful Northern California with her husband and four children.


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