76 birthday parties. If you add together all 4 of my children’s birthdays, that’s how many total birthdays I’ve been responsible for. I could tell you about ….. oh, maybe 4 or 5 of them that were pretty good. We rented a coffee shop for a surprise 16th. We had a luau themed 13th, a Scooby-Doo 5th (complete with scooby snacks), 4 little girls decorating a huge sheet cake with multi frostings and sprinkles, laser tag and pizza for 12-year-old boys. We made a sea serpent cake, a castle cake, a carousel, dinosaur, horse ranch, heart, and a few others that were respectable.
We also have quite a few of “oh my gosh–it’s TOMORROW!” birthdays with a gift card, a purchased cheesecake, a friend invited on the fly to go…..to go….what the heck would be open tomorrow!! We have a lot of “let’s have grandpa and grandma over and grill out” birthdays. We have several “both mom and dad have concerts on your birthday–could we have a friend or two over in a week or so?”.
My daughters, and many of my students, are Pinterest-obsessed. They find, and actually make, incredibly clever and decorative things. They show me plans for Halloween costumes, birthday parties, decorations/treats/accessories that are insanely wonderful.
I’ve got to wonder, though, how much guilt can we heap on mothers these days? How can these women have time to raise children (which is laughably demanding), earn income (which most of us do these days), and also create these Martha Stewart-worthy events for their children?
I kind of think (I’m sure this is rationalization for my shortcomings, but bear with me) that having a mom who isn’t always looking online for new ideas, who isn’t rushing you in and out of your car seat to buy hobby supplies, who doesn’t spend late nights staying up to craft some darling table favors in your party theme colors, who just possibly has time to play a game with you, who is smiling the morning of your birthday, who doesn’t care about the smears on the front door from the dog’s nose, who is just happy to be with you on this special day—maybe THAT would be something exciting for a kid! I’m pretty sure that the parties I think were the best are not necessarily the ones the kids would pick. Those parties were a whole lot about me–my success–my planning–my cleverness–my ability to do this well. Not always a lot about my daughters and my sons. They DID have some wicked fun, but usually it was during the silly things. Laser tag was great, mostly because we all played and Mom and Dad got shot about 3x per minute during the whole game. Grandpa and Grandma were great because they took them out to fly kites for as long as it took to get it up in the air–no hurries, no worries.
So just sit down for a minute already. Keep it simple. If you really dig doing all the cool decor stuff, and you have the time, then plan away. But if you’re a schmuck like me, don’t sweat it. Just remember to smile at them a lot. Be happy. Be fun.