I Refuse To Spend A Bunch Of Money On My Kids’ Birthday Parties
For my first child’s first birthday, I went hog wild for her party. I won’t embarrass myself by publicly announcing how much I spent but suffice it to say, it was way too much for a child not old enough to remember any of it. Yes, I know, the first birthday is more for the parents than the baby, but if I’d really thought about it, I would have realized that a dinner out with my husband would have been a far better way to spend that money.
I was almost just as bad for my son’s first birthday but that was when it hit me- when I noticed that no one seemed to care about the elaborate 3-tier fondant Sesame Street birthday cake tower I had ordered from the fancy independent baker. When no one cared that I had done up the most beautiful Sesame-themed party favors you could ever imagine. No one cared that I had strung personalized balloons with my son’s name on them all over the park pavillion where we had his party. Everyone was just happy to eat a cheeseburger and see my son to wish him a happy birthday. I was doing it for me….and that was when I realized, I really didn’t care all that much and that it was more the pressure I felt to make it amazing than anything else.
Needless to say, as the years have passed, I’ve scaled back. A lot. I’ve come to realize that my kids only hope for and appreciate a few select things for their birthdays- cake, junk food and some presents. They don’t even need to be expensive presents– they just like to open stuff. An $8 Spider-Man figure is met with the same enthusiasm as the $79.99 Lego set so why torture myself?
I really think that parents now have gone a little nutty with the kiddie birthdays. I mean, don’t any of us remember birthday parties when we were kids? I couldn’t tell you a single detail about the parties I went to in regard to decor or special foods (other than the sweet box mix cakes my mom would make). But I do remember the time my friends dad walked in on us at 2am during a 3rd grade sleepover while we were having an egg fight and instead of punishing us, joined right in. I also remember the random Friday night where my friends mom took us to a local amusement park at 8pm totally by surprise, just me and my friend. It wasn’t part of some grand pre-planned soiree but it remains one if my fondest and most vivid childhood memories some 25 years later. It doesn’t need to be flashy to be remembered.
I think in a bid to impress other grown ups we’ve forgotten our audience a bit. My kids are happy with the garish Ninja Turtle cake picked from the catalogue at Wegmans and a few balloons. They have exactly zero shits to give about an elaborate photo birthday invitation and Pinterest-curated hors d’oeuvres table and decor. Kids just want to be kids and making ourselves happy and impressing our friends doesn’t need to be the focus. It may have taken four or five years but I’m finally at a place where I can throw out a text to our closest family and friends with party details and call it good. Order the cake and a few pizzas, blow up a dozen balloons and be done with it. Watching my kids I can see that they have just as much fun whether I’ve done all the special little touches or whether I honor what actually matters to them and call it a day.