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Let's jump right in and start with BIRTHDAYS and HOLIDAYS...
You're a great parent, you do fun stuff with your kids, give them lots of attention, show them you love them - but maybe you're just a little flaky when it comes to holidays and customs.
Even if you didn't celebrate most holidays growing up - do it! You'll all have fun, and you'll be building family traditions. This is the stuff kids love and that they'll always remember. There's always something coming up to look forward to and it doesn't have to cost you much, if anything.
You don't have to observe them all, but do make an effort to do some of them - especially the two that require preparation on your part so your kids aren't uncomfortable at school: Valentines Day and St. Patrick's Day.
You're busy. You have a lot on your mind. You forget to buy valentine cards for your child to take to school. Maybe you didn't even remember that you used to do that, but the look on the teacher's face and her Marge Simpson disapproving "mmmm" when you dropped your child off at kindergarten without any valentine cards left little doubt that you'd screwed up.
It wasn't a huge thing, but it was a thing, and your little boy or girl was the only one who didn't have cards for the other kids. Awkward...
I live in Los Angeles and don't know about a lot of the customs and holidays in other countries, so I'm concentrating on U.S. holidays, but you'll get the idea. Just be creative and adapt the general 'go for it!' attitude to your own holidays. If you don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day, read about it anyway - maybe you'll want to, or maybe you can get some ideas to incorporate into other celebrations, birthday parties, etc.
So here we go!
First, you need to get a big calendar and use it - a real one, not on your computer. Not just for tax day, doctor appointments and the season opener of True Blood, but for BIRTHDAYS and HOLIDAYS.
It's easy to forget the holidays you don't pay much attention to as an adult and birthdays always fly by. Let the kids help you pick out the calendar. Hang it up where you and they can see it, so you don't forget things and so they can see what's coming up.
Once you have your calendar, get a bright pen and fill in everyone's birthdays: The immediate family, close friends - yours and the kids', close relatives - the ones you want to call or send a card or e-card to on their birthday (or to have the kids call).
Then mark all the holidays. If holidays are already indicated on your calendar, make sure they're ALL on there.
It's March. What's in March?
St. Patrick's Day is March 17th! For your kids, that doesn't mean drinking green beer at that awesome Irish pub you always want to go to, but never do because the only time you think of it is on St. Patrick's Day and you know it will be too crowded.
For kids, St. Patrick's Day means what? WEARING GREEN! If you do only one thing on St. Patrick's Day, make sure your child is very obviously wearing something very green.
The day before St. Patrick's Day, ask your kids to pick something green out of their closet so the don't spend the whole next day getting pinched because they didn't wear green and hate you until they have kids.
(Note: Don't go crazy and dress them completely in green either - don't make them a joke. One green thing is perfect. A green shirt, pants, shoes, sweater, bow, or a green clover pin on their shirt would be great.)
If for some crazy reason there's no green in your child's wardrobe, make a clover and pin it to their shirt. Make it out of a green piece of felt, cloth, construction paper, pick one up at Target or Hallmark - or throw some green Mardi Gras beads around their neck. You wear something green, too. Even the dog or the cat can get a green ribbon.
Just make sure you send them to school with something green that's not socks or underwear or a belt that will be covered or a jacket they'll take off.
If you want to do more:
- Have some kind of Irish or green themed side dish or dessert. Green jello - awesome. Green Kool Aid, cupcakes with green frosting or green jelly beans on top, clover shaped cookies with green sugar sprinkles, or go all out and make corned beef with cabbage, Irish stew or colcannon.
- Invite friends over and have a party!
- Get funny green hats, tiaras, buttons, or decorations from the party store.
- Get a couple green balloons or some green flowers.
- Watch an Irish movie
- Play some Irish music, dance a few jigs! You could download some music from itunes or amazon or make a playlist on blip.fm or playlist.com with Irish bands: The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Great Big Sea, The Corrs, The Cranberries, The Exiles, even U2...
- Hide a leprachaun's 'pot of gold' filled with gold chocolate coins in the backyard for the kids to hunt for or hide candy shamrocks around the house. See's Candies makes really good holiday candies.
- Take the kids to a Faery Hunt if there is one in your area.
- Go to a St. Patrick's Day Parade - wearing lots of green!!
- If you're Irish, you might want to order ahead some custom 'Kiss Me I'm an O'Callahan' (or whatever your name is) t-shirts, buttons, etc., or make your own.