If I were to tell you what my number one fear was when becoming a parent I’m sure you would guess either 1) keeping a helpless infant alive 2) sleepless nights with said helpless infant or 3) how to place a helpless infant into one of those godforsaken baby slings. However, the real answer is birthday parties. Before my 1st son was even born I worried about the planning, administering, conducting of, everything to do with having a successful birthday party. Seriously, this stressed me out.
I am not creative. I loathe Pinterest. I hate going to other children’s birthday parties. I don’t even want to go to my own child’s birthday party. But this year my son was turning 4. A 4 year old is starting to have actual friends and not just children I force him to play with because they have the same pant size. Not to mention, he is at an age where he might remember that he didn’t get to have a birthday party when he turned 4 because “mommy is lazy”, or whatever he will tell his future therapist.
The year before, when he was 3, I invited my friends’ children (once again from forced playdates) and did “Pancake and Pyjamas” theme, an idea I clearly stole from someone on Facebook who obviously trolls Pinterest like it’s her job. It went over well and of course I took complete credit and then suggested the idea to others like I came up with it on my own. Obviously. This year was going to be different though. I was going to have to invite children I did not really know. Children who have parents who could possibly judge me for not having enough crafts/songs/life lessons about sharing involved in this birthday party. I know I shouldn’t care about moms judging other moms, but y’all know it happens! I am still sensitive about not nursing my second child and affiliating that with why he grunts and points instead of talks, so back off!
I asked my son what he wanted to do for a theme and gently (with a bit of desperation) suggested we could do the same thing as last year because it was so much fun! Pancakes! Pyjamas! Extra syrup! No dice. Instead he replied, “Let’s do cake and clothes instead”. Helpful. So naturally I resorted to a Paw Patrol theme because that’s what all the other 4 years olds are doing (hey there is plenty of time for him to set his own path in life and be an individual and all that other crap).
So if you want to know exactly how to tackle that dreaded birthday party, I have some pointers. The first hurdle is the invitations. Right here is where things can get out of hand. Do I invite the whole class? Do I invite all the random kids in the neighborhood? More importantly, how many kids can I have in my home without inducing heart palpations? According to my husband, the answer is 3, but clearly I have to invite those kids that will make my child happy. You know because I am such a good mom.
Next, you need to think about the food. I know it’s annoying that you have to feed them. Obviously, I’ll order a mediocre cake from the grocery store the night before. I’ll assume that they can make a cake in the shape of one of the Paw Patrol dogs and hope for the best. (They don’t by the way…have to settle for a “Happy Birthday” written in icing). I suppose I could have done that myself, but I don’t bake and now is not the time to pretend that I do. Bless you if you saw the Pinterest post for Thomas the Train cupcakes using real trains and Kit Kat bars, but I’m not interested in that shit. Partly because I don’t see the necessity and partly because kids would eat cake served on the floor because IT’S CAKE. Maybe I am tainted because my children would happily eat food out of the garbage (oh and they have), but to me cake is cake. I also know enough to plan a birthday party between the hours of 2-4 so that all I have to serve is cake and a few juice boxes. I might put out of bag of chips on the counter, which would just be for me to eat while I watch children terrorize my home. Keep it simple and just make sure you don’t open the booze until the children leave (or at least until you can say “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” when a parent gives you the evil eye).
Now here’s the thing. I’m a bit of a cheap ass. Shocker. That’s why I won’t buy/make some specialty cake. That is also why I figured having my child’s party in my own home would also be cheaper. But with having a home party comes the need to entertain and have games planned. Again, it’s because I’m supermom. I highly recommend having a plan here people. Don’t think you can “wing” this….that my friends, is a rookie mistake. So I had some crafts planned (paper bag puppets…not my first rodeo) and these foam dinosaur kits I got from the dollar store (double points there for cheapness). I had them ready just in case. I was hoping the kids would just run around and play. Nope they all loved the idea of a craft when my son spilled the beans about me buying glue, which could only mean one thing. Glue=messy craft=so much fun. Shoot. Me. Now. Crafts with 3 and 4 year olds (and my 22 month old to boot) is basically you making it for them while all the other kids scream at you “I need help”. “I want eyes on my puppy”.” I want to make a dragon that breathes real fire”. “Where is the glitter? I am not making anything unless you get me glitter.” And on and on it goes. This is the point where this two hour birthday party feels like it’s been 2 years. Two years in prison. Perhaps it would be better to make a bunch of puppets ahead of time and let them randomly put on stickers. I’ll let you know how that goes over next year.
After the craft and signing of “Happy Birthday” and eating of cake, there is the matter of the presents. Anyone with a young child has that fear. You know what I’m talking about. That fear that your child will throw a tantrum at the present they received, or god forbid ignore the gift entirely. Of course I spoke to my son (well we rehearsed a very well thoughtful and meaningful message) before the party to make sure he was thankful and appreciative. I suppose I was fearful about the story my mom tells about my brother’s 3rd birthday where he opened all his presents and told everyone he didn’t like any of them. Oh the horror! And that was back in the days when parents didn’t attend parties with their kids or if they did they sat in the kitchen smoking cigarettes and drinking Diet Coke. If your child does throw a fit at not liking a particular gift, I would simply throw out the old cliché “Kids will be kids”, or something along those lines and immediately fake an emergency that requires you anywhere but in that room.
Once you finish making your child hug every child at the party and look them directly in their eyes and say “Thank You”, you are just counting down the minutes until either the parents come to pick up their child or the parents that stayed get the hint that you want them out of your house. Just remember that this will soon end and you will be able to crack open that 8 dollar bottle of wine knowing that you deserve it because you are “Mom of the Year”! Don’t forget the goody bags though. Oh yes, the treat bag every child wants, but no parent appreciates having in their house. All goody bags are the same. Cheap ass toys from the dollar store, recycled pencils from every other birthday party, an organic, nut/peanut/ gluten free snack that will boost your child’s immune system, and stickers/tattoos that you will most likely toss in the trash when your child is not looking. I suppose it is a nice way to say “Thanks for coming to my birthday party”, but truly isn’t the joy of making your own paper bag puppet enough? It isn’t, so just give in and make up the goody bags with the above mentioned necessities and save yourself the criticism you will receive if you don’t do it. Then you are home free and you can relish in the fact that there will be 364 days until you have to do it again (unless you have more than one kid and you will likely have to do it again in like another month).
Oh and while we’re at it can we just can all the bullshit holidays please? You know what we used to get for Valentine’s Day? Yes that’s right…Valentine’s. That’s it. You know what we used to do for St. Patrick’s Day? NOTHING. That isn’t a thing until you are old enough to drink green beer. We did not have “Elf on the Shelf” at Christmas time. We had a “you better be good or you’ll be in trouble with dad” lecture that lasted all damn year. Christmas was one day, not three weeks of super fun surprises every damn day. You know what that clever little Easter bunny left us? Jelly beans and those giant chocolate bunnies that would accumulate a village in my parent’s deep freeze. So can we just go back to this please? I am far too lazy to add any more shit to my already shitty plate.
I vote that we make the birthday party and all holidays and non-holidays alike a much more simple affair. My birthday parties as a kid were the same every year. We went swimming at the local hotel pool and came back to my house for pizza and cake. And you know what? I loved it. I didn’t feel slighted because my mom didn’t spend $500 at Dino Bouncers. My mom is just like me…Mom of the Year…well at least in my kids’ eyes I am and that is all that matters anyways.
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