Look, I understand that you want to make your little one's big day memorable, I really do. But stressing yourself out, wearing yourself out and even, gasp, putting yourself into debt to do so is just plan NUTS.
Due to my being somewhat sleep deprived (me, what? Nah.) I over booked both myself and Little P a while ago and had back to back birthday parties for an entire weekend. Now, if it had been just me, it wouldn't have been an issue. I would have just sauntered in, dropped off the gift, said 'hi' to the host and the birthday boy/or girl and then headed on out to the next one. Piece of cake. But when you actually bring a child to a child's birthday party, you are kind of expected to hang around, comment on the decorations, 'oh' and 'ah' over the food and make polite conversation with people that you don't know and will probably never see again (okay, maybe I'm slightly exaggerating here, but you get the point). Add to this the fact that I had a total of four to go to over two days and you can understand how completely tired and worn out we both were at the end of it all.
But that's not why I'm writing (I freely admit it was my fault that we - okay, me - had so much cake and sugar-y stuff in a 48 hour period that I'm sure my body thought I was a teenager again). Why I'm writing is because I can't believe how much energy (and money) these parents put into their kids parties.
Party number 1 was a 'carnival theme'. Okay, cool. Sounds fun. It was an actual carnival. With a ferris wheel and other kids rides, cotton candy stand, face painter, ballon animal maker, clowns, bouncy house, popcorn maker.... it just went on and on. I swear, Little P's eyes just went HUGE when she saw everything that was going on. That and she clung to me like a Reese's Monkey. Not sure if that was the clowns or just the overwhelming number of things to look at. I'm sure that Little Miss 3 was just beside herself with her birthday party, but really, how do you top that for her fourth birthday?
Party number 2 was just as over the top. Fairy theme for this one. They turned the inside of their house into a forest (I kid you not) and even had forest sounds going as you walked into the door. As you go further back to the yard, you pass through a bunch of pastel colored streamers hanging from a door way and then you are in 'Fairy Land'. Parents where dressed up as fairies and pixies and the like. There was 'fairy' themed food, all listed on the table (with calories, and if it was gluten free, soy based, yadda, yadda, yadda), balloons and glitter. Lots and lots of glitter. This was for a 2 year old little girl, who prior this, I didn't even know liked fairies (and it turned out, she wasn't really keen on them, Mom was the one who was nuts about them - figures). So, more cake and high sugary food (yup, I stayed away from the healthy stuff. Hey, it's a party!). At the end of this one, Little P was practically falling asleep in my arms so we headed home - her asleep as soon as I got her in the car, me nursing a stomach ache.
The next day we had the other two; a party for a four year old and one for a six year old. I was thinking (somewhat naively as I later discovered) that these would be somewhat tamed down as they were for older kids. Hah!
We get to party number 3, for Mister 4, and find ourselves on a farm. Apparently, Mister 4 is all about farm animals, and what do you know, his parents managed to turn their back yard into just that. Hay bales and corn stalks, petting zoo, pony rides, corn dogs and popcorn, and of course balloons. And wouldn't you know it, an actual farmer! Okay, it was the guy who brought all the animals, but man, he looked like all the pictures I've ever seen of Old MacDonald. I kid you not.
Little P probably enjoyed this one the most, I'm guessing because of the animals. But man, after being there for a little while, it certainly started to smell rank. We wished the birthday boy 'happy birthday' grabbed some cupcakes and headed on out to the last party.
Party number 4, had the most potential to be fun. It was at a park, they had erected their own open tents (three of them), had set up a volleyball net, and had a bunch of organized games for the kids. This, I thought, was how a party should be. Easy breezy, with the kids running around having fun, the parents taking it easy and everybody just enjoying themselves. Granted, they did have a large flatscreen TV operated by a generator, in one of the tents, with Xbox games playing (this was where Mister 6 spent the majority of his time), and they had a 'bar' set up for the grown ups (I use the term 'bar' loosely as it wasn't really a physical bar, but a table with a bunch of cocktail waitresses getting your drinks), and there were dudes walking around offering you little bites of food on platters (to this day I have no idea what I ate and Little P refused to try any of it). So, it was really more a 'grown up' party than one for the kids. And the cake, it was enormous. I swear, it was almost as big as the kid was and apparently it was in the theme of one of his favorite Xbox games because when it came out, he almost lost it.
We sang 'happy birthday' grabbed a goody bag and left, quietly. Once we got home, both Little P and I passed out for a couple of hours. It was a long weekend, but an eye opening one.
I get it. I really do. It's their big day. You want to make it special. But you know what? The stuff they remember about that party isn't necessarily going to be the decorations, or the food or even the cake. It's gonna be that one of their cousins ate so much they threw up in the bouncy house. Or that their little sister decided to pull down all the balloons and pop them. Or that the dog jumped on the cake and then ran through the house making paw prints in frosting. That's the stuff they will remember, if they remember it at all (seriously, how much will a two year old remember?).
So, while it's great to go all out for your little one's birthday, don't drive yourself crazy doing it. You should be able to enjoy it too.
Till next time, go easy on the balloons, and the cake and most definitely the clowns (they just freak me out).
I used to think that planning a party for a grown up was hard work but really, as long as there is alcohol, decent tunes and something for people to do when they are drunk and ready to embarrass themselves (i.e. Karaoke, Wii) you are pretty well set. Planning a little ones party - totally different ball game. I mean, really, what do you serve 1-4 year olds? It's not like you can add a little something to the punch to make things interesting....