Ever since my ninth birthday when I hid under my bed because everyone was paying attention to Lani Ouzts instead of me, birthday parties have been events to dread.
My one regret as a parent is that I didn't have a birthday party strategy in place from day one. I didn't set a precedent about what to expect.
When the invitations to other kid's parties started rolling in, I felt pressure to do things a certain way—as in have birthday parties. If I had made a plan upfront, I could have said, "No, that's not how our family does it." Instead, I've been wishy washy at best.
If I could have a do over, I would create a very convincing Powerpoint about the economics of birthday parties and present it to my extrovert husband,convincing him that there are long term financial gains to not hosting birthday parties. I may or may not present this in the nude.
There are so many things about children's birthday parties, starting with other people's children, that are not my cup of tea. Large groups of children, goodie bags, party games, balloons, loud noises—these are all things I go out of my way to avoid.
I also try to avoid seeing my child's unrealistic expectations of a fun party crushed under the reality of time and space, limited credit lines and mom's lack of interest. I'm still waiting for the party where my children don't burst into tears.
Every year I try to convince my children to skip a birthday party, and every year I fail. This year I offered my oldest son a choice of three weekend trips—one that included an indoor water park and all the arcade games he could play.
His response? "I think I want to have a party with my friends."
Brainwashed. He's been brainwashed.
Before you know it, they'll believe that they're special and entitled to groups of people singing and fawning all over them. Baby Jesus got three gifts and you want 24? One for each of your classmates? Un-freakin-believable.
Parents of young children, do yourself a favor. Avoid the birthday party trap. You can push the pendulum the other way. Instead of hiring a clown or renting a shaved ice machine or bringing reptiles into your home, get a sitter and go out.
Make your kid's favorite meal, have some cake, kiss them goodnight, and get the hell out of there. Toast yourself to another year in the books. Because isn't it you that they should be celebrating and showering with gifts for bringing them into this world? All they did was show up, and they get a party?
And if everyone starts doing this, soon the social pariah will be the people still hosting birthday parties, and there will be no guilt for not having a party.
A girl can dream.
Take my advice: If you're not willing to change the system, at least have a game plan. Birthday parties are for suckers.
Hours navigating evite for one beaming moment of joy. A smile that splits your heart wide open. An arm casually flung around a friend's shoulder. A chorus of squeaky boys singing Happy Birthday without any inhibition.
It gets me every time.
Originally published on KalySullivan.com
#tenyearsaparent is a weekly blog series about what I've learned in my first ten years as a parent. Whether you’re a parent nodding in agreement or shaking your head with disgust or a non-parent using these posts as birth control (the surgeon general wants me to tell you that reading blog posts about parenting is not an effective form of birth control), I’ll be spilling the beans on what parenting is really all about.
When she doesn't have her nose in a book, Kaly is a writer and co-founder of Harlow Park Media. She also practices yoga, wrangles and referees two elementary-age boys, and blogs at KalySullivan.com about her often humorous efforts to lead a mindful, connected life.
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