My oldest turned four last Saturday. (I got a postcard in the mail for pre-kindergarten immunizations and about had a heart attack. This parenting thing flies.) Creativity has an excuse to let down its hair for my kids’ birthdays, and I wanted to show you an idea we’ve done for the last two years for him. I love seeing the big grins it brings to his face. (I can’t claim credit for the original idea!)

We send out the email below to his Sunday school teacher, close relatives, babysitters, and his friends’ parents. It’s fun to see them interpret it in their own colorful ways—poems, photos, and even illustrations for him. We read them aloud as his birthday approaches, sometimes more than once, creating a culture, we hope, of birthdays looking to what God has done in our children and what He may do. It also quietly demonstrates your dependence on these friends and family to help you raise your child.

As an unexpected treasure, I have a now-invaluable poem my son’s grandmother wrote for him last year. She passed away suddenly last fall.

Here’s hoping this idea blesses and calls forth God’s creation in your child as it has mine!

You are a special and influential person in [child’s name]’s  life right now! And we need your help.

[Birthday date] we’ll celebrate his [age] birthday, and we would like to mark that occasion with a short letter from you. On whatever stationery or paper you choose (email is okaywe’ll print it out), would you help us to celebrate his God-given uniqueness? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

q       Affirm good qualities (especially character) you already see in him! Be specific when you can.

q       Cast a vision for him this next year. He’ll be a big brother, he’ll be learning more about what it means to be helpful and compassionate, he’ll be learning social skills, reading and writing skills … anything you can think of. More than teaching him, we’d love for you to get him excited about what he can do being the big [age]!

q       Have fun encouraging him. We hope to save these few letters where we can read them often, then in his scrapbook.

If you’re receiving this request as a couple, we’d like each of you to write your own letter. So we can read them to him on the week of his big day, we would like to receive all letters by [earlier date]. Hopefully, this won’t be a huge time commitment on your part, but will show up in big ways in [name]. Thank you so much for your care for him, the role you play in his life, and for helping us shape him.

Gratefully, [Parents’ Names and contact info]