As of last year I have two kids and their birthdays are one month and one day apart, so from now on, August will officially be Birthday Month at my house! I am once again consumed by birthday prep and I love it. I've read a number of negative articles in the past year or so about the wickedness of creating extraordinary children's birthday parties, especially if they are really little kids like mine are . . . and yet, I come from a tradition of beautiful birthdays and I have yet to think they are really a bad idea--I was going to say within reason but I realize that "reason" means different things to different people, and my parties will seem particularly unreasonable to a segment of the population.
What's it about for me? Well, for one thing it is NOT about anyone else's parties. I am not trying to out-throw the party of any other mother of any other kid. Period. It's not about me looking fabulous, or organized or creative or better than anyone else. It's about what I was raised to believe a birthday celebration to be about. Celebrating to the absolute best of your ability, within what you consider to be the realm of reasonableness, the child whose birthday it is. Will the child appreciate every speck of it? Probably not, even when they're thirty. But I don't buy into this being a reason to tone things down. While I do want my child--whatever their age--to be pleased, it's not about impressing the socks off them. It's about me creating a day that I feel celebrates the wonder of who they are and the adoration and delight that they bring into my life. I want the day to be a gift to them, a part of the story of their miraculous births and let even the years they don't remember still be part of our family lore.
I guess that almost makes it sound like it's about me . . . and I suppose in a way it is . . . but that is because they are about me, or I'm about them maybe. It's not the stuff of the party itself that matters--we've had years when it was just us hanging out at home with a couple of close friends and a cake from the grocery store. It is about the way we do the day and the care and attention put into the celebration no matter what shape it takes or the size it ends up being. Elaboration is not always the mark of a lovingly planned party.
The older they get the more input they'll have (and I swear I will let Princess make her own decisions when it comes to her wedding), but I think I will always adore giving my kid the gift of their own celebratory event (although limos and rock stars and live animal entertainment are on my personal "unreasonable" list). I have wonderful memories the ones my mother gave me--she knows how to throw a party!
This year Princess hemmed and hawed and poured over the Oriental Trading Company party catalog. First of the year we were having a bird party with a nest cake. Spring brought a princess theme with a castle cake. Then she became adamant about Spiderman. Now, she's never seen the movie (or read a book about it), but it's popular in the preschool set and all her friends were talking about it and she had to have Spiderman. I waited for the whim to pass. It didn't. So we sat down and I said, "Look. Mommy is the one who does the carrying out of the party--that means Mommy does all the work--and we need to find a compromise here that will make both Mommy and Princess happy." She wanted to know why Spiderman doesn't make Mommy happy. Well, I didn't think the explanation of how wrong I think Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire are for the parts of Peter & Mary Jane and how they (plus pathetic dialogue in all of the recent film versions) have totally ruined it for me was going to fly. And she adores bugs and I have tried very hard to make sure that my own dislike of the real life nasty pesky insects doesn't dampen her own love of them. So I side stepped and we talked about why she liked Spiderman, and of course it had to do with the fact that she loves bugs and saving the universe appeals to her. So I said, "How about a bug party?" Big eyes. Big smile. "You mean worms and everything?" "Of course, honey . . . and butterflies and ladybugs and dragonflies . . ."
Was Spiderman truly the desire of her heart? After our talk, I really don't think so. What she wanted was something she didn't know how to describe and Spiderman was the closest thing she could think of. I think the playground at the park, and a ladybug pinata and cute little bags of gummy worms will work out just fine, for both of us!