Birthday parties! I have a love/hate relationship with these. I don’t like planning them and for the most part I don’t like going to them either, but I know that they are an important part of my children’s youth.
Before I had Davey, the trend of themed parties was starting to come to light. For his first birthday, I somewhat jumped on that bandwagon and planned him a nautical themed party. I didn’t go all out with decorations and I most certainly did NOT have little goody bags for the guests. Most of the guests were family anyways, while others were people who I had just met since becoming a stay at home mom. It was a great birthday, but definitely not up to a party planners’ caliber.
The following year, I had a Mickey Mouse clubhouse themed party and while I went a little bit further with it, I still didn’t go to extremes. I even managed to tone down the guest list. By the time Davey’s third birthday came around, I had Henry who was 10 months old and I’d learned a few things regarding parties, what I wanted and expected out of them, and what was really and truly worth the effort.
I decided that I no longer wanted to have the parties at my house. It’s a bit stressful preparing for a party and keeping a clean house with two boys, one grown man, and a dog. I also decided that I didn’t HAVE to invite those family members who I only see once every other year. In most cases, they were invited to save face, but every time they declined to show. Now I just don’t bother.
I also decided that theme parties are ridiculous, at least for me they are, and truthfully my kid isn’t that concerned. He just wants to have fun at some place he doesn’t go to everyday and with kids he can see outside of school. For Davey’s third birthday, I had his party off site and we invited a ton of people. My heart literally shattered when only 4 kids showed up. Davey didn’t care so much, but I did. I was pissed (still am to this day) at friends who didn’t show up. Again, it bothered me more than Davey. After that 3rd party, when I reserved a spot for 15 kids, with less than a third even RSVPing (come on, people, you’re adults. A simple yes or no works), I decided to reevaluate what may be keeping parents from bringing their kids, which then had me thinking, “what makes me NOT want to go to a party?”
First thing is gifts. I have enough stress in my life, enough things to keep on a calendar, that trying to go out and buy a gift for a 3,4,5 year old, whom I don’t know very well, is just a bit daunting. I spend what feels like a lifetime in the toy section trying to find something not too dinky, but within my budget. There are a select handful of kids who I will do this for, but really I don’t like doing it. I have enough toys in my house, so many in fact that I had to shuffle them in and out. Of course the necessity of buying a gift doesn’t keep me away from going to parties, but it’s still a pain in my ass.
So, what do I do with the gift headache? Last year, I implemented a new policy where gifts are concerned. There are people who feel they MUST by a gift. I had a few people tell me they were disappointed that my child wasn’t getting gifts. It’s a celebration, a party, a chance to have something that lasts longer than toys…memories and friends. Since I knew people would want to buy a gift, I encouraged them to go to one of my favorite charities, the GHS Children’s Hospital, and a buy a gift for a child who is in the hospital, a child who doesn’t get the luxury of going out for parties. I had thought it would be a hit, but alas only one set of parents bought a gift for a child in need. That genuinely broke my heart.
Second thing is food. I try to schedule my parties around a meal time so that encourages parents to want to bring their kids, because at least they don’t have to worry about dinner. I make sure to have enough food for the parents as well. If it means you will bring your child to my child’s party, then I will supply you with a meal. All my kid wants is to hang out and have fun.
Third, has to do with activities. When I was a kid, we had birthday parties at our house and my friends and I played out in the backyard barefoot with whatever toy was there. We created our games, played sports, and ate cake and ice cream. The parents were always on the porch or patio, not hovering over the kids trying to dictate what the kids should be playing. For some strange reason, it seems that this day that just a big fat no no with parents, so I just have the parties off site at some sort of activity center where I don’t have to beat myself senseless trying to come up with activities. Yet another thing that’s a pain in my ass.
I know, a lot of you are asking me about the gift situation right now. I can see you telling me it’s not fair to deprive my child of an essential part of his childhood by not giving him gifts on his birthday. To that I say, “back up and hold the phone.” My children do receive gifts. We have a small little birthday dinner, with my parents, aunt, and cousin, along with my mother-in-law every year where my children receive toys. They have gifts to open, so I’m not taking away their chance to open gifts. I know this is something that will keep me from attending a child’s party (not every child’s) and if I feel this way, I know other parents do as well. If I can alleviate that stress (usually the biggest headache for a parent taking their child to a birthday party), thereby encouraging more of my children’s friends to show, then I am a happy mom.
Birthday parties are a dime a dozen. When you become a parent, there are so many of them to attend, more than I ever recall attending when I was a child. It seems as if we’re receiving invites to a new party at least once a week and I know that’s only going to get worse as Henry is officially old enough to be in school and have friends of his own. Yet another party to plan and another whole set of parties to attend. It comes with the territory of being a parent, but why not find ways to be considerate of the other parents when planning the party. I know it’s the child’s special day, but even on his special day, consideration for others is always a must, at least in this household.