Party Pooper

Last week, my sister-in-law called me to invite me to my nephew’s 4th birthday party…in September. I will probably receive a “save the date” email within two or three weeks, followed by a professionally printed invitation in mid-August. She loves throwing birthday parties for her kids – she starts planning the next one as soon as the confetti is cleared from the last. Each party is thematically designed with sets that rival an off-Broadway show. One year a Hawaiian Luau (complete with questionably sober hula dancer), another had a fairy-tale theme that included a castle with a moat, this year…superhero – she is constructing Gotham City out of boxes – and she does all this while working full time as a psychotherapist (confirmation that therapists are indeed a little crazy).

party planning


I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I haven’t had a “real” birthday party for my son in a few years. We have a family party and generally do something special with one or two friends (a sleepover, movie, dinner out), but after six or seven years of parties, I was kind of burnt out. The parties that I threw were nothing like the productions that my SIL throws. I am more of the rent-a-place-bring-a-cake variety, but it’s not the party that was overwhelming, it’s everything that goes along with it, such as…

The List: Unless you invite the entire class of twenty-something children, someone is going to get left out…resulting in some mad mommy wanting to know why little Johnny wasn’t included. Add to this various friend’s children, and relatives, and your little birthday party has turned into stadium-size event. Most party venues can accommodate about 20 kids at a party – but for a fee you can add….CHA CHING!

The Cake: “Hello bakery, I need a wheat-free, gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, dairy-free cake, please.” Next to impossible. I don’t know why I bother, none of the kids eat the cake anyway. I should just serve everyone a glob of frosting with a candle and be done with it.

The Goody Bag: When did this become a “thing”? Really, does any kid need a bag full ‘o plastic crap? But if you don’t start handing them out, kids don’t seem to get it that the party is over.

The Pile O’ Presents: Yes, it’s fun to open gifts, I wholly acknowledge that, but 20+ gifts is borderline obscene. Which brings me to…

The Thank You Note: While I’m no Emily Post, I do think it’s essential to send a handwritten note thanking someone for attending your party and bringing you a gift – after all, they took time out of their busy life to think of an appropriate gift, purchase it, and wrap it, and attend your party. But getting a 10 year old to sit still long enough to write 20 notes is not an easy task. At one point, before he was capable of composing and writing a note, we used the fill-in-the-blank thank you notes, but he’s on his own now.

This year, my son has requested a party, and since he hasn’t had a bash with his friends for a few years, I’m inclined to say yes. Although his birthday isn’t until December(!!), he’s already started thinking about what he wants to do and the friends he’d like to invite – I think he and his aunt share the party-planning gene.

What do you think about birthday parties – a lot of fun or out of control?


8 thoughts on “Party Pooper

  1. We just had a party for my kids, who both have summer birthdays. It was sort of a get-together for family and friends with or without kids, with beer and such, although I did put together some little goody bags. It was the closest we have gotten to a big party for the kids, and honestly, it was exhausting and expensive. I like the theory of having people over for a party, but when it comes to the execution, I feel like there’s just too much to worry about for me to be able to enjoy it. In my case, because I’m somewhat of an introvert, there’s the other issue of needing to be “on” for the duration of the event. I like people, I really do, but needing to talk to and interact with that many people for an extended period of time can be exhausting and overwhelming, even if on the outside I’m smiling and seem normal. It was much easier back in the day when you could throw a bag of Tostito’s and a jar of salsa on the table next to the keg and just let things happen by themselves. I also don’t really love to prepare food or decorate the house or whatnot, so that takes a lot of fun out of it too. Ironically, I love weddings and secretly want to be a wedding planner … but that’s different for some reason, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event (hopefully) and not like real life? Not sure what it is. But entertaining for any other reason in the home, or at a rented venue, is so not my idea of a good time.

  2. Oh man, you have struck a nerve with me. I hated EVERY SINGLE ONE of my kids’ parties. Why? Because the other children were so obnoxious. I never did the massive type with parents AND kids (although parents came along when the kids were little), I definitely liked having them in other venues than my messy house, but that got expensive. MYS-27 has a May birthday so we did a lot of parties outside. Once I took them to an arcade-y kind of place, where I gave them each a ton of tokens so they could play whatever game they chose. At the end of the party, one little girl whined, “Where’s my goody baaaag?” She didn’t get it that the tokens for the games and the prizes she acquired when she won the games were the moral equivalent of a goody bag. I’m still seething. However, one of the nicer venues was the Children’s Museum in West Hartford. There’s a nice party hostess and lots of wholesome activities. Of course, I am remembering parties held in the 1990s….

  3. I’m a first-time mom and my daughter’s first birthday is coming up in August. I can’t believe the time and money some of my other ftms are putting into this first party. At this age, it’s definitely more for the adults than the kids. An infant isn’t going to remember the extra fancy (over-priced), custom-made cupcakes or decorations. We’re doing a simple BBQ at Hammonasset with family and friends. Probably a few balloons and a couple decorations so it looks like a birthday, but money is tight, so the party will be simple.

  4. I land somewhere in the middle 🙂 Our parties are very clearly homemade, but I like to spice things up pinterest style and love a good theme.

  5. I’m on your side here, Ann. While i like to throw in a few DIY and hand-made touches, i let the bulk of the work be done by the pros- ordering a cake from Mozzicatto’s, buying helium balloons from the grocery store, and my favorite- ordering a few sheet pizzas and bottles of wine, beer, and soda. I’m still convinced these humungo personalized parties are more for the adults than the kids. Even with this little hoopla, i find that Jake is still sometimes overwhelmed with the whole deal. And he’s only two!

  6. I am with you Ann! I love a more intimate party and something special. While I think the big parties are gorgeous and fun I just do not want that much work for a 2 year old. I would rather save that money and go on a great vacation….

  7. I am SO on your wavelength, Ann. Parties for me mean that I have to go crazy thinking, planning, CLEANING, cooking, etc. etc. The cleaning part, I think, is the worst. We did our last party at the Little Gym. While I did go a little over the top (train theme, so we got stuff like custom cookies, cupcake toppers, and full-on train toys in the goodie bag), I decided after that that I was done until they start asking again. It was WAY too much effort.

    For my kids, I am totally the rent-a-place-and-bring-a-cake type; of course, I’ve only done one non-family birthday party to date. I’ve been lucky in that my kids have the same friends (they are in the same class currently) so we don’t have to do two parties or two sets of guest lists. I do get some economies of scale that way. The unfortunate “problem” with twins for everyone (including the people coming, since they usually end up bringing TWO gifts) is that you end up with a bazillion gifts; most of which you either already have or don’t need. Half of our gifts ended up being donated to kids in need, while the other half got rationed throughout the year.

    I’m thinking for their third birthday to do a family getaway – since it will be both their birthday and MY milestone birthday two weeks later…

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