How we got started

Birthdays Without Pressure initiative group

It all began when a St. Paul parent, Linda Zwicky, brought an excerpt from a parenting section in a small town Colorado newspaper to share with a group of mothers in a parent education class. The article was about how gift bags at birthday parties were becoming a problem in this small town and how some of the mothers in the town were calling a ban on them in the future.  Linda had just thrown a birthday party for her own three year old, and was struck by how much stress she felt in trying to do the party “correctly.” Reading the article helped her realize that this stress was happening to parents around the country.

When she shared the article with the mothers in her parent education class some of them expressed similar feelings. The parent educator, Todd Seabury-Kolod discussed some of the stimulating conversation they had in the class with Dr. Bill Doherty of the University of Minnesota who thought this topic was interesting and wanted to hear more from a mother’s point of view. Linda, Todd, and Bill met over coffee to discuss what has happened to birthday parties and the social pressure surrounding them.  After this meeting Bill asked Linda to invite other parents who were interested in working with him to start a parent-led initiative to explore the issue in more depth and raise awareness of the current social norms with birthday parties.

As the group expanded and the conversations deepened, we were struck by how many parents had experienced similar feelings of stress and pressure with their children’s parties.  There was always much head-nodding and laughter along with resentment and frustration as parents compared their birthday stories.  We decided we had the beginnings of a movement here in St. Paul, Minnesota. Using the Families and Democracy process that Bill had developed over the past decade, the group met regularly during 2006 and interviewed other parents throughout the community as we worked towards the public launch of Birthdays Without Pressure in January 2007.

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