Is it Okay Not to Throw Your Kid a Birthday Party?
I have been to some seriously beautiful kids’ birthday parties. You know, the ones where the parents thought of everything…
A cute theme complete with personalized banners, delicious and pretty appetizers, huge lovely prints of the birthday kid, fun activities, well thought-out gifts in beautiful wrapping, a gorgeous cake and even hired entertainment or a photographer to capture all of this fancy cuteness.
As much as I admire all of the thoughtfulness, the details and the hard work, my kids’ birthdays have looked far less glamorous. Here’s a few reasons why:
When my first son turned one, money was tight. As in, even a large dinner party could exceed our monthly budget for “extras.” At the time, my husband and I were both working to pay school loans, trying to save some money and, of course, our son’s birthday happens to fall in December, the one month when our budget was stretched the most.
My son also happens to share a birthday with my brother and a few days before he turned one, our nephew was born. So, we went out of town and spent the day with family. He saw all of his grandparents that day, lots of aunts and uncles, and even met a newborn cousin. We reminisced about his birth day and all the ways we had enjoyed him over the past year, but he didn’t really notice any of that.
He did notice the balloon, and the one gift he opened from us – a monster truck (which he still plays with, 4 years later) – and the cup of yogurt we stuck a candle in when we sang “Happy Birthday.” We had lots of laughs, quality time and even a couple of sweet photos, but no extravagant party.
Spending too much money, getting too stressed or even arguing during all the frantic preparation is a common downfall of throwing a big party. But you have to wonder, is it worth it?
Where does this pressure to throw an extravagant party come from? Is stressing over a kid’s birthday party a rite of passage into parenthood?
I am a big believer that we all have to prioritize things in order to stay sane and the things that are most important will be different for each family. Some moms thrive on those big celebrations and I have a huge appreciation for that sentimentality. If that fuels you and is a creative outlet for you – if you can do it joyfully, don’t hold back! Fill your cup and enjoy every minute. But if it’s overwhelming, drains you or your family or just comes at a bad time, it’s okay to keep it simple.
For our son’s second birthday, we did this by asking him what he wanted to do. He said he wanted a doughnut and a blue balloon. Easy enough! I cut out gold paper stars and strung them on twine from the ceiling just for fun, bought 2 dozen balloons to play with and stacked donuts into a pyramid with a chocolate covered one on top for him.
By the time his fourth birthday came around, he got a real party. I spent about $20 on posters, made some fun decor and super hero masks for our guests. And I did stay up very late the night before, so I know even a small party takes a lot of work! Mostly family came and one friend his age, but it was a beautiful day. We all enjoyed homemade food and watched the boys play.
When I was a kid, my parents put streamers all over the house on our birthdays. Even if no one was coming over, it was happy way to wake up and it set the tone for the day. They often let me skip school on my birthday (Gasp!) and I loved it. It was a rare opportunity spend one-on-one time with my parents while my siblings were in school. These little gestures left the impression on my mind then, and now, that birthdays are a big deal and should be distinguished from regular days.
I think it’s important to remember that no matter the age of your child, a birthday can be special – with or without a party.
I have a friend who decorates her daughter’s door and hallway the night before her birthday. When she wakes up in the morning, the balloons and pretty bunting are the first things she sees. Some moms I know take their kids to a movie or the zoo or to the same restaurant every year. There’s something wonderful about an inexpensive tradition that stays special just because of the sentimentality.
This year, I’m not sure what we’ll do. I’m up for a party, if he asks for it. I just know from year to year, even if our capacity to deliver fluctuates and even on the years when we are pressed for time or money or energy, we’ll be sure to make the day special.