Can I tell you an embarrassing story? At face value, it’s kind of impressive. And then it’s embarrassing. And then it’s a little pitiful. I have a love-hate relationship with birthdays. At least the birthdays that take place in my house. Don’t get me wrong- I like a little celebration as much as the next person. But when did birthdays for kids evolve into pre-planned events that look like My Super Sweet Sixteen on steroids??? Cue the embarrassing story:
First off… I am NOT a “keeping up with the Joneses” kind of girl. You already know that, right? For the most part, I get that I’m a total weirdo and nobody wants to do what I’m doing. No bigs. But somehow, the birthday thing digs at me every time. And with four kids, it is SOOOO not the thing for me to get all hung up on. Celia’s autism has always been a blessing with birthdays, since she never really wanted a party and was cool with family dinner. And to be totally honest, Cora was the same way. This is the girl whose birthday dinner request was Buffalo Wild Wings. Seriously.
Then I watched all these cute little girl parties, and I just HAD to follow suit. First there was a makeover party, hosted at a kids’ party event center near us (I didn’t even know that was a thing), complete with manicures, makeup, and dress-ups for each of the girls before bringing it home with a fashion show. Then there was the princess tea party, complete with painting and artwork (smocks included) and a visit from the most beautiful Princess Elsa you ever saw, who led the girls in singing “Let it Go,” before performing magic tricks and giving everyone glittery face paint. I felt like these parties outshone my wedding reception, and certainly cost more. (Okay, I eloped, and had a fancy dinner with the fam as a reception. But you get what I mean.)
So what did I do, you ask? I threw little miss a SPA PARTY. And since I called those kid-friendly event centers and got serious sticker shock, I hosted it at my house. Regret #1. And we weren’t homeschooling at the time, so we had to follow the school rule that ALL the girls in the class must be invited if more than 2 were. So…we had 13 six-year old girls at our house. My mom, MIL, and dear friend Margaret helped out with face masks and manicures, and my Aunt Nan was kind enough to read Fancy Nancy’s Ooh-La-La Beauty Day! My sweet friend Danielle was kind enough to make pink spa cookies ahead of time for us, and I served yogurt parfaits and strawberry ginger ale punch for our snacks. And the girls colored makeup on Barbie face coloring sheets I printed off the internet. Fabulous, right?
Did I mention I was nine months pregnant at the time of this party? Yeah. True story. And in purchasing all the little knick-knackish nonsense to throw this party, I am pretty sure I spent close to what I would have spent to host said party somewhere like Monkey Joe’s or Pump it Up. Did I also mention that I gave birth to baby #4 the next day??? Also true story. Oy.
So what’s my point in all of this birthday storytelling? I’m getting there. See, the next week, Miss Co was just smitten with her new brother. She had all but forgotten the spa party. And the next party she attended? Brunch and a movie with her BFF. And that was phenomenal. She talked about that for weeks. Even in thinking back on it, with all the hours I invested decorating my house before hand, trying (with limited success) at maintaining order during, and cleaning up after the party…ugh. I. Can’t. Even. Seriously.
And here we are, approaching James’s 2nd birthday. I found myself doing the same psychotic nonsense. Looking at Pinterest at all hours of the night (I’m up with the baby anyway, so why the heck not?), thinking: “ooh. A garbage party might be nice. James LOVES garbage men…” and “No, no, no. A READING party. He loves stories. Maybe Cat in the Hat! Or just Dr. Seuss in general…” and on and on into infinity. Friends, I WILL NOT give in to this insanity! I WILL NOT make myself insane ordering some $80, red dye #40-filled, hydrogenated oil-frosted cake for him to smash!
I had this unique experience working in HR for a mass retailer. As a millennial myself, I have no problem identifying this as a uniquely millennial problem. I hired tons of top candidates for management, with great academic records, phenomenal communication skills, and virtually complete inability to function in a world that did not revolve around them. In more than one major market, I saw actual management trainees who: missed work, causing a store to open late, because he was standing in line to buy the new Jordans; needed her parents to request a deeper explanation for her performance feedback (because surely that sweet 23-year old baby didn’t do anything less than top-notch!), and my favorite, explained to me, an area HR manager, that she (an executive intern) needed to miss the entire week of her birthday, even though she hadn’t accrued enough vacation time, because it was “a tradition.” Holy smokes. My market managers and I actually sent early birthday cards to our new managers simply to encourage them to focus on their jobs and not their birthdays for the entire month of their birthdays.
I don’t care what it takes y’all. My children will NOT be those people. Not gonna happen. There were so many hours of my life that I will never get back spent arguing with parents of adults who genuinely could not adult. So here’s what I’m asking myself (and reminding myself to ask myself): “are we celebrating my child’s birthday as a family? Or are we putting on a show for all the other families around us?” That spa party was epic. But it was about me doing something along the same lines as everyone else on my Facebook feed and not about enjoying one special day with my daughter. If I hadn’t had the baby that weekend, rest assured I probably would have made her a post-birthday breakfast and taken her for mommy-daughter birthday milkshakes. I struggle with this one. Look at this blog! It’s so easy to say “here I am! Look at me! Look what I did! Look at my baby! Look what she did!” It’s a lot harder to say (without recognition from anyone else) “I like what I did and how I did it. My kid’s pretty good, too. Good job, me. Now, time to get back to real life.” But that’s where some great life lessons can be learned. I hope my children can see some of that, if only through their mom’s crazy, occasionally-clouded judgment.
I’m going to try to do what some good friends of ours just did- host a birthday party that reflects my child, and not me. Have just a few friends of my child’s, not necessarily mine. And let it be over when it’s over. Because births take place on days not months. And if it were the other way around, I’m pretty sure the moms would be the ones getting a month worth of celebration. At least if I were that mom.