When Birthday Parties Stop Being Fun

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When I was a kid, birthday parties were nothing but a group of your friends coming over to your house to play, eat some food, sing “Happy Birthday,” and have some cake. Then, somewhere over the following two decades, something happened. Birthday parties became big events, with themes, where you have to invite every person you’ve ever met, and every person you may ever come in contact with again, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

I’m not saying my husband and I haven’t been known to do these exact things at one time or another since we became parents. Our oldest child’s first birthday party was big; we didn’t spend an obscene amount of money or go overboard on the decorations or anything, but we invited quite a bit of people. We were excited! We had just made it one entire year keeping a tiny person alive without either of us completely losing our minds!  If that’s not cause for celebration, I don’t know what is.

For a few years, we continued to do ridiculous things like this:

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This:

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A little bit of this:

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And even this (totally all my husband’s doing, and, no, I’m not sure why there are three “P’s” in the word “HAPPY):

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But in that time, we had a second child (who did NOT get a first birthday party… oops) and we started realizing that all the time we put in to these themed birthday parties was better spent doing practically anything else. Don’t get me wrong – it’s FUN to make cakes that look like dump trucks. But as your children get older, and you have more of them, you begin to realize that they honestly could not care less about the fact that their cake looks just like their favorite Disney character. They just want to eat cake, no matter what it looks like!

And if other kids are anything like my oldest on his first birthday, he didn’t have any idea what cake was, and wanted no part of it. Luckily I had purchased it at BJ’S, so there was no slaving away on a cute cake for nothing.

Not only has Pinterest made every Mom in America feel like they need to be crafty and creative when it comes to their children, it has also become a trend (once kids start school) to invite every kid in the class to their birthday parties. I’m lucky enough to have one child with a summer birthday and another one who’s close enough. I personally wouldn’t let my kids invite their whole class, but the fact that they have summer birthdays makes it a non-issue.

I think it’s great that there are parents who are brave enough to invite 20 kids to their house. We’ve been to many parties with the children outnumbering the adults by a wide margin, making it a little too close to a Lord of the Flies type situation, and the kids always have a blast. It just isn’t my cup of tea. Not only do you have to clean the house to get ready for the party, and clean up the mess that is sure to be made after the party, but 20 kids equals 20 more things cluttering up your house, many of which are sure to require batteries.

Even small birthday parties aren’t up my alley any more. As I mentioned, we did have a couple of big birthday parties when my oldest was young, but as he got older, the “themes” slowly disappeared and the guest list got smaller and smaller. You would think that the lack of theme and shrinking guest list would make it less stressful, but it doesn’t.

Throwing any birthday party, you always want to make sure the house looks presentable (which is obviously a challenge with small children), and make sure you have enough food, and enough party favors, and enough things to keep the kids occupied so they don’t completely destroy your home. Even though I know people will have fun no matter what, it still stresses me out.

Now we’ve reached a point where, instead of spending money on a big party, we try to go somewhere special as a family. I have a lot of friends who are opting to do the same. Last year, we took our son to the Legoland Discovery Center in Boston, and this year, we convinced our daughter that instead of a party, we would go to Great Wolf Lodge.

We still have a cake and presents on their actual birthdays, but now they have wonderful memories that stay with them forever. I’m not saying we’ll never have another birthday party for our kids; I’m just saying that after having taken a year off, it feels great!

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