I totally burned myself out of birthdays

May 4, 2015 at 9:00 p.m. ET
Image: Getty Images

May marks the month of birthdays in our house (my daughters are born two days apart in May).

And now that they've totally come to expect a full week of giant, blown-out-of-proportion birthday extravaganzas, I'm completely over them.

I'd like to think that I'm one to buck the birthday trend, but the truth is, birthdays have always been a big deal in our house. Growing up, my mom didn't throw us birthday parties, but birthdays still always felt like special occasions.

I can still remember waking up on my birthday, just feeling a little extra sparkle in the air. My mom had a very loose attitude toward letting us skip school for mental health days (don't worry, I was valedictorian, so she was clearly onto something) and many a birthday was spent sleeping in and looking forward to a special dinner. Birthdays were nothing extravagant, but they always had a way of making us feel extra loved and appreciated.

Which is why I am so perplexed as to how the hell birthdays in my parenting world have evolved into the giant, exhausting week-long bashes that my children seem to currently expect.

Of course, I'm fully aware that I am to blame. With my daughters born only two days apart, I've been overly conscious of making their birthdays feel special to each of them. I dreaded hearing them complain to me someday about how one shined over the other or one felt neglected somehow. The solution? One shared, giant birthday party and two small, individual special birthday dinners and experiences. I've done everything from spa days at a local beauty school (cheap idea, btw) to getting them a freaking trampoline.

One year, it was a Jake and the Neverland Pirates theme, complete with sandbox treasure digging, walk-the-plank games, maps, pirate hats and a treasure chest cake that took me three practice baking sessions to get right. The next, it was all Frozen, all the time (of course) and despite being hugely pregnant, I hung snowflakes and painstakingly pasted Olaf labels on 10,000 water bottles. (OK, so it wasn't really 10,000, but you get my drift.)

Why do I do it? Why? I guess it's because some part of me feels like it's an important way to show my love and dedication to my kids and I genuinely do want them to have an awesome birthday. On one hand, it was fun and as my girls get older, they really get into the planning and the prepping with me. But on the other? I hate myself for even starting the precedent. What a moron I was. Because now, huge birthday parties, weeks of planning and literally days of catering to them have become their birthday "norm." This year, I tried to warn them that we would be scaling back because, "Mama just doesn't have the energy," and I was rewarded with blank stares.

To them, "scaling back" simply doesn't exist. And really, I have no one to blame but myself.

I don't know how to proceed from here. Of course I love my kids and of course I believe that celebrating with family and friends is always a worthwhile cause, but maybe I just need to learn that all we really need to have a good time is some delicious food and the people we love — favor bags, birthday banners and balloons be damned.

So moms, take it from me and for the love of Pete, start small with the birthday celebrations. You can always build your way up to the perfect Pinterest party, but once you start, it's hard to go back. Just ask my daughters.

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