When I was a little girl we didn't have big, extravagant birthday parties. All of my grandparents would join us for a meal I got to choose, and if I was a very lucky girl, my dad's mom would bake me an apple pie for dessert. The End.
I didn't have a big birthday party with lots of friends until I was in the seventh grade. It was a slumber party, and I didn't even have that much fun. Several of the popular girls found out about it the day of and crashed. The next year I just picked a few close friends and had my mom drive us to the movie theatre.
Big stuff, I know.
These days birthday parties for kiddos have grown to epic proportions. Bouncy houses, carnivals, attendance gifts (don't get me started...what in the world?? It's my kid's birthday!), and props that take months to plan, and enormous amounts of money to afford. Even those done on a budget seem to require a level of expertise and time that this poor non-crafty mama just doesn't have.
Falling short in a Pinterest party-planning world
Our boys' birthdays are just three weeks apart, so for the last several years we've had one big party for the both of them. It helps me with planning time, and enables us to throw a bash on a tight budget. This year we chose to hold it at our local pool for a few reasons:
- We're already members, and aren't required to pay an extra "birthday party fee" just to bring a cake and a few friends.
- Our boys are very into the pool. They would spend all day, every day jumping off the diving boards if we let them.
- We only had to pay for our non-member guests who chose to swim. It totaled a whopping $36.
- The pool served as our entertainment. That meant this non-crafty mama didn't have to scour Pinterest for games or crafts to keep our partiers busy and happy.
The cost of the pool party still ended up being over $150 because we fed our guests pizza, gave them drinks, and had a talented friend of ours make them a baseball (Yankees) themed cupcakes. So cute, right?
Split between two boys the party cost us an even $75 a child. Not too shabby. They walked away with a ton of new Star Wars Legos, and we went to bed exhausted, but 100% sure our boys felt blessed.
The Party-Mom Pressure
You might be reading this post and thinking I'm bashing moms who throw elaborate parties for their kids. I'm not. If party planning is your gift, why shouldn't you use it to bless your children?
No, this post is for the rest of us, who are often tempted to feel ashamed of the party planning gift we lack.
May I say something to you, mama?
God made each of us with different gifts, and our individual seasons of life, number of children, and financial resources make it impossible for all of us to conjure up amazing theme parties with unicorns and rainbows for the kids to take home as parting gifts.
Take a deep breath and let it go. Refuse to compare your party ability (or lack thereof) with another mom whose giftings and resources are dramatically different from yours. Instead, find small ways to communicate to your children that you love them, are grateful for their lives, and can't imagine yours without them in it.
In our home, someone's birthday is a family day. My husband and I blow up balloons and hang up "Happy Birthday" signs around the house in places that delight and bless our kids as they wake up for the day. We make a special breakfast, eat lunch at the child's favorite inexpensive restaurant, and then see a matinee (a.k.a cheap) movie if there's a good one available at our local theatre. We hardly ever see movies in the theatre, so this alone makes them giddy with excitement. Then we come home and I bake them a cake.
For the last few years I've heard remarks about the day like, "this is the BEST day ever!" or, "I can't believe I get to choose where we eat!" Obviously, they're happy and they know they're loved. In my heart, I believe that's what a birthday should be all about.
As I look back over my own upbringing and the parties my parents threw for my brother and me, the memories I treasure most are the ones that found me surrounded by my family, the people who loved me most and were most thankful for my life, and warm apple pie. I'd be willing to bet those will be the memories your children hang on to as well.
So take a deep breath mama, it's OK.
Brooke McGlothlin is co-founder of the MOB Society (FOR moms of boys, BY moms of boys) and co-author of Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess.