You Say It’s Your Birthday

Carla: While the actual birth-days of my children are three of the most miraculous and memorable moments of my life, I must say that celebrating those days is, to me, one of life’s bigger hassles.

My poor son was born on a major holiday, which means we either have his birthday party a few weeks before the actual day or a few weeks after it. If I remember. I have managed to pull off some kind of birthday party for him every year, but only out of guilt. I long for the day he doesn’t care or just plans his own party.

I’m not alone here. Today I called another mom to invite her son to my son’s last-minute, way-overdue birthday party and she noted that she has not had a party for her son yet, even though his birthday was a few months ago. Another mom invited my son to her boy’s party with the caveat, “His actual birthday was last summer but we’re just getting around to the party now.”

I hate hate hate hate hate planning birthday parties, even the extremely low-key, not-at-our-house, someone-else-makes-the-food-and-cleans-up, no-there-is-no-goodie-bag kind we are prone to throw together. I suppose like most things that stress me out it’s just a matter of making it happen–the event itself is not a big deal. And now that the friends have been called and the thing is on iCal, I feel a bit better. But still.

I guess what I really want to know is, how did this become my job? My husband hasn’t put one ounce of thought into this thing. He has not once woken up in the middle of the night panic-stricken because he can’t believe it’s almost February and we still haven’t had a party. Oh, he’ll be at the party and help hand out cupcakes and get bowling balls for everyone. And he makes the kids’ actual birthdays all kinds of fun. But the party planning has somehow landed on my mental plate and I don’t know why.

Caryn: Funny you should mention this. I’ve got two b-days coming up in the next month-ish and have already been thinking about how this will all go down. I, too, hate planning parties and I too have never done a goodie bag (but we DO always have a pinata, so that counts). And I too am always the one planning the party–with the husband who gets drinks for the adults and hangs and finds the proper bat for the pinata.

But I dunno. I don’t know why this falls on our laps. Clearly, the party should be for US that day. But I’m guessing it’s just because we love our kids so stinkin’ much and we’ve all heard the stories of those kids born on leap day in a leap year and who’s mom only celebrated their birthdays ever four years and know that moms who throw parties give their kids one less thing to grumble about down the road.

(Can you tell I have wet hair and have to run out the door to a meeting in 10 minutes?)

Carla: In the scope of things, this is a very minor complaint. And really, it’s not even a complaint as much as a…um…an…eh…. Okay, it’s a complaint.

I will say this, however, I am blessed to be amongst parents who–with very few exceptions–keep their kids’ parties as low-key as we do. I read about these over-the-top parties and how parents feel like they are stuck in this cycle of one-up-momship and I’m sooo glad that’s not the world I live in. I would be a big dud in that world.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those for whom birthdays are a big deal and those for whom they are not. I like to think that I am raising my children to have low expectations for their birthday celebrations. Their future friends will thank me.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Oh, I HATE planning birthday parties, and this post came at the exact right time–from Jan. 31-March 2, there are (wait a minute, counting) 8 birthdays in my need-to-celebrate-and-buy-presents-for-family, four in my immediate family. I have failed to adequately plan a couple parties in the past, and lived to regret it. Four years later, my almost-twelve-year-old STILL reminds me that I never rescheduled his bowling birthday party that got stymied by his chicken pox. (His SECOND BOUT of chicken pox, too–how’s that for bad luck!!!)

    I’m so glad I’m not the only person who despises this!


  2. Posted by Sara on January 28, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Ooh. My child is three and I am really dreading the day he wants a birthday party.


  3. Posted by Danielle P. on January 29, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    You’re in good company, and it’s nice to know I am as well. Little boy Prasch was born on my anniversary, and while he was spared the holiday problem (which his little brother was NOT, born four days before Christmas) we now have to ignore “our” day and pump his up. I hate it. I struggle with feeling bitter and resentful about another one of our days being stolen and then feel guilty about it. The fact that February holds these two occasions is compounded by my husband’s birthday, Valentine’s Day (don’t even get me started on this!); suddenly what we affectionately call our “Month of Love” has become “Crappy, Stressed-out Month.” Add out-of-town visits from the inlaws who insist on coming for all three of our kids’ birthdays and you have a recipe for ignoring phone calls and too much wine drinking.

    I remember when I used to enjoy planning these things. My first born’s first birthday was the biggest party we’ve ever had, and I loved every minute of it. How did we get here? And yes, ALL of the planning falls to me, with the added uber-fun element of convincing my husband that these occasions are necessary and worth spending our money on. I pride myself on my frugality and he makes me feel like the most exorbitant person alive. Sheesh.

    So I feel ya, sister Barnhill. Hang in there.


  4. Posted by Robyn on February 1, 2010 at 10:14 am

    When I was a child, my family birthday party was always at my grandparents house. My grandmother would cook whatever meal I requested, we would have cake and presents. That’s the sort of thing I’m shooting for, but my husband has a rather large family, and every year it just seems like a much bigger production than I intend.

    Even last year’s “low-key” three-year-old party was stressful for me. By the time I invite guests (family only, even!), get food (that satisfies everyone’s dietary restrictions!), decorations, cake, drinks, deep clean the damn house, I’m wiped. And then I have to clean the house again afterward! But I simply can’t imagine not celebrating my child’s birthday with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Maybe next year we will just go to the park and grill some hot dogs. Surely that would be less work? (Of course we would have to have turkey hot dogs, beef hot dogs, veggie dogs… why can’t people just eat without worrying what is in their food? LOL)


  5. Posted by Jen S on February 1, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I didn’t grow up having big birthday parties, so that’s made it easier not to worry about them too much.

    My children (7 and 3) were born 4 yr and 24 hr apart. (Poor boy had a great 4yr bday celebration with extended family one night and then woke up to Mom and Dad being gone for 2 days while his sister was born.) This makes it easy for family parties, we just invite everyone here for dinner and have 2 cakes (cake in our family is a box mix in a 9×13 pan with colored frosting). This past year I made chili and had everyone bring toppings and sides.

    Friend parties have only happened twice, when my son turned 5 (at the local nature center where I only had to bring cake and paper products) and 7 (brought 2 friends to the zoo where Daddy works).

    Looking ahead I assume it will be more complicated, but I’ve found that thinking ahead has helped me a lot. Their bdays are in Nov, so we start the discussion in Sept/Oct and get the date on the calendar. That way local family can get work off and the out of town grandparents know what the schedule looks like too.


  6. Dude.
    I would love to have the “problem” of too many relatives who care enough about my children’s parties to want to come! Actually, I have a few who do care but they live halfway across the country. I always hoped to have one of those huge family gatherings at birthdays, but distance separates our kids from all their aunts and uncles and cousins.

    I love planning birthday parties. It’s something I did with my dolls when I was little, and I unabashedly embrace it now. It’s the only time really that I embrace my inner (lazy) Martha Stewart and get all creative and theme-y. It’s also MY day–it’s the day I became a mom, and I make sure to take time to reflect on that as well, even if it’s just heading to Starbucks at 10 pm for a cup of hot cocoa. Full fat with whipped cream.

    Oh, and I don’t clean the house after the party…but I do scrub it well before. But after…I relax.


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