Here a Party, There a Party, Everyone has a Party

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.

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Davey’s Mickey Mouse clubhouse birthday cake custom made by one of my best friends. She did (and still does) magnificent work!

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.

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Continuing with the theme for Davey…not doing these anymore.

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.

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Henry’s first birthday…no theme and he was happy.

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.

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Henry’s first birthday….look at that smiling face.
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Quicker Than We Know It

For the past few days, it’s been agony in our house.   We’re back home from our two week vacation to Rochester and trying to get back into the swing of things.  I’m not sure what our problem has been, and by “our” I really mean my children, but to say they’re not getting along is an understatement.   The past few days I’ve found myself contemplating Baileys in my morning coffee, job searching, and even just running away from the house, leaving the boys to fend for themselves.

Yesterday I counted the days (including weekends) until school starts back for my children.  It was 46 days, so 45 today.   I’ve played around with the idea of creating a countdown board, one to help me through the days, but I thought it might depress the boys.  Apparently I don’t know my children as well as I thought.   When I told both of them how much longer they had until school started, I was met with cries of “that’s way far off” and “I don’t know if I can wait that long.”  Huh?  My kids are actually looking forward to school.  Imagine that!  Perhaps I will create that countdown board after all.

It’s as if the school seemed to know that I was desperate for the summer to be over as I received packets for both boys in the mail yesterday.  It’s your standard “welcome” packet complete with photography waiver, PTA dues, calendars, and volunteer opportunities.  Excitedly, I tore into the packets and perused through the calendar.   So much will be going on this year and I can’t wait for the adventures in learning to start.

This afternoon, I decided to begin work on the packets, first thing being to take the calendar and log in all essential days onto my personal calendar.   For the things I felt my husband needed to be a part of, I emailed a calendar invite to him so he could add it to his schedule.   I was feeling accomplished and for the first time all week, I’ve felt normal again, and able to breathe, but then things started to unravel as I continued adding events.

In September, there are two separate Donuts with Dad days that my husband will need to attend with BOTH boys.   As I entered those events and hit “ENTER” the next event popped up on my screen…Davey’s 5th Birthday.  My first born will be 5 this year.   5!!!!   Thanks, Google!   Way to give my heart a true smack for being so ungrateful.

I continued on into December, with another shouting from my calendar of “Henry’s 3rd Birthday”.  How is this possible?   How are my children going to be 5 &3?  How are these days going by so quickly and yet so painfully slow as well?

Fast forward a few months on my calendar and we’re into April when Davey begins testing for kindergarten readiness.   TESTING!!!!!  Gah!  I don’t know whether to be excited, happy, nervous, scared crapless, or worried.  Actually, I know what I am…I’m sad.   My first baby is growing up and will no longer be in preschool.  He’ll be in school, all day, every day.   He’ll have lunch without me.   He’ll spend six hours of every day without me.   He’ll have a life away from me, and as much as I’m exhausted with the two of them this summer, I’m saddened by how quickly life is moving for my little family.   Even when I’m so overwhelmed with the two of them and all I can think about is how quickly the day will be over, deep down I’m hurting.

Lately Facebook has been inundating me with memories of Davey.  There have been pictures of his first steps, the first days we were together as I became a stay at home mom.   There are memories of his silly faces, his dances, his “no pants Tuesday”, imitating daddy, cuddling with Dixie, eating breakfast on the back porch, learning to write, Facetime with Daddy for breakfast, dinner and bedtime (since daddy used to travel so much) and “reading” silently in his room.    It’s as if Facebook is insync with my moods and knows that I need these reminders even when I’m desperate for some peace, for some time away from my children.

People tell me I’ll miss these days all the time.   They’ve been telling me that for years, but I’ve chosen not to listen, to tune out their “all knowing” voices.   I’ve put my head down and found a way to plow through each day with my boys and just hope for the end of the day.   I tell these people they’re nuts, that I’ll “never miss these days,” but I will.  We all know I will.   Heck, I’m already missing the days when Davey had his little baby voice as he was learning to speak.   I already miss the days when I could pick him up and cuddle up with him.   I already miss the days of his chubby little munchkin legs (he’s begun to take after me and is getting tall and skinny).   There is so much my heart already hurts over, things that have long since gone.

It’s a shame it takes things like Facebook memories and school welcome packets to zap me out of my summer blues with the boys.