Celebrate good times come on!

There’s a party goin’ on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you

It’s birthday party madness at our house. My younger girls went to two parties last week. They attended a party on Friday afternoon and another one yesterday.  They have a party next week. Oh, and their own birthday party is today.  That’s right, we are hosting a party in less than three hours and I’m sitting at the computer in my sweaty workout clothes checking my Facebook and drafting a blog post. Because I’m in denial. And because I’m struggling with my need to keep things simple and not spend extravagantly versus children’s (and perhaps parents’) expectations.

When I was a child, we didn’t have birthday parties every year. I recall having only two birthday parties, but I never felt deprived. And every child’s party was a homegrown affair where we played Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Clothespin Bottle Drop. (Clothespins? Who has clothespins any more?  That’s a topic for another post!)

So when my oldest received her first birthday party invitation ten years ago, I was in for a big surprise.

First there’s the venue. My children have attended birthday parties at pony farms, inflatable bounce stadiums, art schools, indoor gyms, and laser tag centers. They have been entertained by magicians, jugglers, dancers, and Disney characters.

And the “goodie bags”. I quickly learned it is de rigueur for the party guests to go home with a gift themselves.  Small plastic toys made in China, colorful pencils, stickers, and candy candy candy. Oh, the pressure.  Do I buy $100 worth of cheap trinkets produced with environmental toxins by underage workers in a third world country? Tiny sharp items that at home I curse over when I step on them barefoot in the middle of the night! Or do I resist the urge to conform and send my children’s dearest friends home empty handed?

Children’s parties have even graduated now from cake mix birthday cakes to Sprinkles cupcakes.  Ka-ching!  Any parent who has cleaned up after a child’s party will cringe at throwing away 20 half-eaten $3.50 cupcakes.

With my oldest daughter I found a formula that worked for us.  We held her parties at home and I created an agenda of games and crafts that would keep the children busy for two hours. The child’s hand-made craft – a decorated picture frame, a carved pumpkin – was their party favor. I often baked a cake, because that’s what my mother did for me. I even allowed my daughter to open her gifts at the party (a controversial practice) because I believed receiving a gift graciously and looking someone in the eye to thank them were important skills to practice.

With my youngest I have succumbed. My over-scheduled life and messy house have gotten the best of me. I do not have the energy to clean my house, only to have a dozen children twirling through it leaving me to clean up again once they’re gone. I no longer have an interest in planning party games. I don’t have the time to run to the art store to pick up supplies for a craft project.

So I have rented the party room at the local ice skating rink where the children have a built-in activity and the facility provides the pizza.  I ordered decorated cupcakes from the grocery store. I will pack large plastic bags so that we can bring the wrapped presents home to be opened later.

But I will resist the goody bag! It’s the least I can do to stay true to myself.

One of the hardest aspects of being a parent is doing what’s right for your child and not worrying about what others think.  It’s a lesson I’m learning every day.

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