Friday, October 19, 2007

Ruminations on Birthday Parties

I've been thinking about something a lot lately.

Birthday parties. Particularly 1st birthday parties. We recently attended the first birthday party of little Cole, who is my friend Bridget's son. (Cole and Lance are pretty close in age.) As Lance draws near to his first birthday at the end of next month, I am starting to feel The Pressure.

It seems that throwing a birthday party is a rite of passage for all mothers. I can recall laughing at another friend who emailed me in a frenzy wanting to know which font she should use on her 1-year old's birthday party invitations. She was completely freaking out about it, and I just didn't get it. I told her that the kiddo was not going to have ANY memories of this party, and if she was so stressed about it, why didn't she just cancel the whole thing?

Now I have a child. I Understand.

A First Birthday Party is so totally not for the kid. It's absolutely 100% for the parents. (This was the fact I failed to grasp when my previously-mentioned friend was stressing about her party.)

Because Lance's birthday is so close to Christmas and our family has a LOT of Christmastime birthdays, we have decided that when he gets older, we'll celebrate his half-birthdays instead, so his party will be in the summer, far far away from any other gift-giving occasion and at a time when a get-together will be WELCOMED by everyone in general because there's nothing else going on. At first, I didn't like that idea, but now as I am realizing just how much many birthday and Christmas gifts we purchase for people in our family every year, and how many holiday parties and get-togethers there are, I'm seeing that people are getting gypped in the gift department and instead of happy party guests, you have grumbly, exhausted guests who don't really want to be there. What fun is that? Another festivity between October and January will not generally be welcomed, but will be yet one more thing people add to their calendars and feel obligated to purchase a gift.

However, this is important. His First Birthday. I somehow know that I will be judged for the quality of party I give my son. Of course no one will admit to judging me in that way, but I know it's going to happen. (Except Bridget. I know she won't!!) In our group of friends, there is a Particular Party Thrower. Every year she puts on 3 or 4 large-scale parties and is known to say, "It's not a party if there isn't something to DO. You can't just serve people food." So I know she will be expecting way more than I am generally prepared to do. There will be one, maybe two other children at this party, and they're also babies. They won't want to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey or whatever it is kids play at birthday parties anymore. I don't want to make my adult friends feel stupid. I've never thrown a party for adults before, being that I'm relatively new to adulthood myself. I've had a few friends come over for dinner, but that is the extent of my entertaining expertise.

(Do you KNOW how much money stupid paper plates and table decorations cost?? Gracious!!! I had no idea that you could break the bank by going as simple as possible with the decorations. The money I spent on teddy bear plates and cups, the tablecloth and a banner for the living room will literally be thrown away after the party. Plus food for everyone? And party favors? The weekend after Thanksgiving? In my tiny apartment that can only comfortably hold 7, maybe 8 people?? What was I thinking???!!!!!!!)

Having a bit of a meltdown here. Gah!!!

*taking a deep breath*

I'm sure it'll be fine. :)


Susan said...

Oh Girlfriend, take it from someone who's been there not once but FOUR's nothing to make such a big hoopla over. You're right. He won't remember it. They're often tired when all those extra people are there which can make a Mama more upset and cranky (OK at least THIS Mama).

Be the trendsetter and KEEP IT SIMPLE. You'll NEVER regret doing so...I PROMISE. Your friends may love you for it.

And who cares what the "party person" thinks? This is probably someone who measures their self-worth by the response of others. And here's what I know...I cannot be responsible for other people's enjoyment.

I don't think a party has to have activities to be enjoyable, and I suspect that some of your guests will feel that way as well. Many people like to linger over good food and good company.

Give yourself permission to do what YOU want to do...and then you'll enjoy every single minute.

I hope you don't mind me getting on this little soap box...cause it is something that I really feel strong about.

Hugs to you!

Jessica said...

Try to keep it small and simple. We had only family members at Jake's first bday. Too many and kids can get overwhelmed. The party is totally for the parents and not the kid so much. I had a small breakdown this year for Bday was worse than #1! :) Great idea on the half birthday celebrations!

Damselfly said...

Ah, you're right, it will be fine. (And I won't be judging you or the party either.)

However, Fly has told me that he expects you to have a bounce house near the fountain and a clown dedicated to making him laugh. Oh, and one of those goody bags to take home full of little trinkets to choke on. If you don't have a bounce house and a clown and a goody bag, what kind of party is that?!

Seriously, I think the party-giving friend might be the only one sizing up how the party is going. But if she has any sense, and she probably does, she will realize it's Lance's first party and that you have limited space in an apartment. If she insists on a game, I suggest making her do the limbo.