Are some of you dropping in shock as I make that confession? It’s not really a confession, I guess; I suppose most of my friends have probably noticed this trend in our lives.
When we had our first child, I felt the obligation to give her a lovely first birthday party. It may have been in our furniture-less rental house, with the garbage disposal clogged with pumpkin guts, and with a camping chair we bought for my grandmother to sit in after she drove for seven hours…but we had one. And I made caramel apples from scratch, so obviously that was a win. Libbie was covered in dyed-orange frosting from her “pumpkin” cake, she had a massive sugar high resulting in some high chair Olympics, and all was well.
We had a wonderful Dr. Seuss-filled second birthday party for her, too, despite the fact that I was seven months pregnant with our second child. We invited our new friends from church, all the grandparents came (from Pennsylvania to Tennessee!), and I blogged all about it, of course, because it was 2010.
I lovingly think of 2011 as the Year I’d Rather Forget.
And honestly, due to some gnarly PPD, I don’t remember that much of it. It was the first year of my second child’s life, but he refused to sleep for the entirety of 2011. We went through foreclosure on our house in Nashville. We moved on campus to Baylor School. I cried, a whole lot. We did end up having an Operation Christmas Child shoebox-packing party in lieu of a Libbie-themed celebration, and that ended up being perfect: a way we could give back instead of piling more toys into our little on-campus apartment.
Then David’s first birthday came around.
His birthday is December 20. Breaking all the Rules of Parenting I knew thus far at age 29, we didn’t have a first birthday party for our boy. In fact, we spent a good deal of his birthday in the car, driving to Pennsylvania for Christmas. Sure, we had some cake and he got some presents. But there was no one outside of the family. And it was fine.
Somehow forgetting this, in October 2012 we had a huge fourth birthday party for Libbie. (Firstborns get all the fun but also all the discipline, amiright?) It was Beauty and the Beast-themed, I think everyone we knew came, and I made a Lumière out of toilet-paper tubes and paint. Perhaps that shows my level of insanity when it came to this shindig. My mom hand-crafted goody bags with Belle dresses on them. We ordered outrageous things on Etsy. My sister dressed in a Belle gown and read stories to the kids. Did I mention I was about four months pregnant?
This was the party that broke me.
I had to realize that party-planning was simply not. my. thing. It exhausts me. It makes me angry. It makes me cry when I try to make teacups out of cookies and they fall apart. No one and nothing is forcing me to have a party every year for my kids except myself and my own expectations.
So we stopped. We decided our kids could have birthday parties at ages 1, 4, 7, and 10. We still do celebrations at home, often with a set of grandparents or my sister and her husband, who are local. We eat cake, and I let the kids pick out all three meals for the day.
We had one more party that I handcrafted (David’s Space Party), and then I realized outsourcing parties, which I had always disdained, was a really great idea. I had always thought it was very expensive and homemade parties were just cost-effective; but between the crafts, foods, decorations, and more, I was spending way more money having parties at home.
We’ve had two delightful parties at the Tennessee Academy of Gymnastics where we only had to bring cake, and a few weeks ago, we celebrated David’s seventh birthday at the Creative Discovery Museum. I have been talking up their party package to everyone I know! It includes museum admittance for up to 40 people, cake, ice cream, activities, and they even write down who brought what gift for you. All I had to do was send a Facebook invite. It was DELIGHTFUL and exactly the kind of no-stress-for-me party that works for our family.
Some of my friends absolutely delight in throwing those elaborate, at-home parties for their kids. I would never want to take that from anyone! I love making beautiful cakes, but I’m never going to look down at anyone for grabbing theirs from Publix (they make delicious cakes and also provided cupcakes for my daughter’s first birthday when I couldn’t deal with doing one more thing).