I will be throwing my 37th birthday party today. I’m not 37. I mean if you add all the parties I’ve given over the years for the boys, I’m on my 37th kid’s birthday party. We’ve done skating parties, and bowling parties; stay at home parties, science parties, swimming parties; just about every dog gone sort of party you can think of. Expenses for birthday parties comprise roughly one fourth of our family’s annual budget. They can’t go to college but by golly they’ve had birthday parties.
Jake got the best parties. He’s the oldest and for a couple of years was the only. When he approached a birthday it was my first time throwing a party for that particular age. (I think by the time my fourth child’s first birthday rolled around, I gave him a cupcake and went to Bunco).
I recall when Jake turned 5 we had his first “drop off” party. I’d planned what I thought was a full two hours worth of stuff for 8 five year olds. Imagine my horror when 28 minutes after the last parent had dropped off their child, the party kids had gone through four bags of water balloons that had taken me three hours to fill, played pin the tail on the donkey, eaten the really cool rice crispy pizza made with fruit roll ups and marshmallows, and they were all standing there staring at me with their little sugar filled bodies expecting me to make something fun happen. After six games of Simon Says, three rounds of Duck, Duck, Goose, and numerous musical chairs rotations the first mom arrived to find me sitting there on the floor with kids throwing popcorn at me as they played a new game called “Whip the mom who didn’t plan enough.” I’ve learned a lot since then.
For instance, we can all do each other a favor by stepping down the whole party thing a few notches. I’m not a big “keeping up with the Jones’s” kind of person, thank goodness, because some of this stuff is ridiculous. I’ve seen parents rent 500 dollar blow up bouncies, clowns, ponies and snow cone machines for their kids parties and invariable the kids move on to playing with sticks in the yard after the first 30 minutes. Eventually somebody’s crying cause the pony pooped, or because they’ve seen this yellow toothed clown come at them with a face painting brush (those clowns are a bit scary–really).
I’ve been to Chuckie Cheese for parties so many times I could throw up tokens.
As an aside-I HATE Chuckie Cheese-my kids go through 73 dollars worth of coins and pizza in about 30 minutes and then stand there at that STUPID counter for an hour counting tokens with a 16 year old, who is NOT working this job because he loves kids. They proceed to select their 73 dollar tootsie roll and bouncy ball and then agonize over the other three tickets they have left to “spend”. I used to think parents that sent their kids up to the counters alone to work through the ticket redemption were shirking their duty; not so much anymore. Now I’ve come to believe that the wrangling of hands and gnashing of teeth done by the minimum wage counter kid is part of the price of my pizza. Sorry kid. Invariably, about 24 hours after we come home from Chuckie Cheese, one or more of the boys are sick from some mutated form of a virus that’s been growing for weeks in the tubes. But I digress.
Birthday parties were NOT a big deal in my house when I was growing up. Occasionally we’d have a party, or we would do something cool but there wasn’t the sort of “Christmas Eve” anticipation that my guys experience. As I recall the whole birthday thing wasn’t that important. I remember receiving a birthday card in the mail in January from my parents one year. My birthday is in September so the five dollar bill in a card was a bit late. It also came at the heels of a discussion I’d had while home at Christmas that my mom and dad had forgotten my ‘big day’. When I called my dad to tell him I got the card, he started laughing:
“It must have gotten lost in the mail” he mused.
“I guess so daddy” I laughed back.
It’s the thought that counts.
Parenting Tip of the Day:
I went to a very cool Bear Hunt Party for a neighbor’s child at a National Park here in the area. Each child was given a bag with a little scrap book, some peel and glue verses to “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”, a magnifying glass, compass, pen, and a snack of gummy bears and teddy grahams. We then proceeded to walk about a one mile trail down to a small creek where the kids got to poke around, explore, have their snack and then head back up the trail for a piece of “bear cake” back at the picnic tables where we had started. It was a very fun and a very unique party idea that I wanted to share with those of you with little girls or maybe boys of a young age. The kids had fun, got some exercise and explored a cool trail in a National Park. Why didn’t I think of that?