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A balloon from my birthday celebration with family today.

As a native Californian who married a Dutchman almost 42 years ago, I have had the chance to learn a little bit about Dutch culture along the way.

Long ago, at the first birthday party I went to in the Netherlands, I was astonished when people kept coming up to me and saying, “Hartelijk Gefeliciteerd!”

Although I couldn’t pronounce the words, I understood that they were congratulating me.

“It’s not MY birthday!” I explained.

“I know!” they laughed. “But here in Holland we think that everybody who comes to the party should be congratulated.”

What a charming idea – to congratulate everyone who comes to the party.

Another charming Dutch tradition for adults is that the person whose birthday it is hosts the party. You invite everyone, provide the food and drinks, buy delicious cute little cakes at a bakery around the corner, and then watch everyone congratulating everyone else about your birthday.

I like the idea because that way you get to have your party the way you want it, and you don’t have to wait for anyone to organize it for you.

So, I am inviting you to my “party”. Please imagine food and drink and cake or some other treat to your liking.

And, please celebrate with me by making life better for those you love – teach them a safety skill, make SURE they KNOW you care about their well-being, help to increase their understanding about how to protect themselves from harm and have fun with each other, and be fully in the moment so you can enjoy your time together.

The only birthday gifts I want are the ones you are already giving just by reading this message – to join with me in this great adventure called “Kidpower!” in whatever ways work well in your life.

Last but not least, please take good care of yourself so you can KEEP doing all of this for a very long time.


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Published: April 27, 2016   |   Last Updated: April 27, 2016

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.