MOMtor Monday: birthday party simplicity

Children's Birthday Party Tipsby Michelle Colasante, Regular MOMtor Contributor

I have distinct and precious memories of my 10th birthday party. It was 1981.

My mom had bought me a new party dress: a pretty navy blue number with coral flowers on the skirt, a coral polyester top with a bow, and a vest to throw over it that matched the skirt. I totally rocked it.

Dad picked up a strobe light for the event, as well as the latest Donna Summer album, and a handful of my closest classmates were invited. They gave me Bonnie Bell lip glosses in little Jordache purses, and Norah did The Worm. I’ll simply never forget it. It was a big year — the year I turned 10 — and it was the first of two “friend” birthday parties I’d have {16′s a big year, too, you know}.

Every other year my mother would simply bake or buy a cake and after dinner, my family would sing Happy Birthday, exchange a few gifts, and call it a day. My grandparents, two aunts, and uncle {all of whom lived within 5 minutes of us} would all be there, but that was the extent of the guest list.

Today? Oh, man, what a different story. I’ve seen elaborate themes. I’ve seen gifts given to small children that are on my wishlist. I’ve seen party favors that rivaled anything the guest of honor could have received. It can get a little silly, if you ask me. I’ve struggled with balance all my parenting life, and birthday parties are no exception.

Like every other parent, I want to make my son feel special on his big day, but where do we draw the line between appropriate celebration and total indulgence?

My philosophy: keep it as simple yet festive as you possibly can. Matt’s a summer baby. He’s had at-home parties with kids running through our sprinkler and eating pizza and he’s enjoyed “location” gatherings where kids got pumped up with sugar and fruit drinks, bounced on super-sized inflatables, and someone else {not mom!} was in charge of the clean up. I prefer the latter {insert smiley face here}.

I keep the favors uncomplicated: one year, we handed out individual bottles of bubbles, while another we wrapped popcorn pouches with ribbon and each guest’s name. I know that when parents issue extravagant favors, my own little consumer forgets that someone else’s day is not about him, so I like to keep it humble, and I love it when other parents do the same. It doesn’t phase me in the least, either, when no favor is included. I say “Amen, sista!” to that courageous momma who bucks the system. I just haven’t been bold enough to do it myself.

The gifts are the issue that really strikes a chord with me though. Matt has many aunts and uncles who love to shower him with treats. Between family members’ generosity and the lovely toys and games he receives from friends, he simply accumulates too much. It feels wasteful.

So this year, as we prepare to celebrate his 7th, I’m keeping a few things in mind. This is probably the last year that we’ll do an invite-the-whole-class thing. Not wanting hurt feelings and appreciating the fact that the 6-and-under crowd are not known for their discretion, it seemed best in the past to ensure that no one in the class was left out. But next year, I think we can have the no-birthday-party-talk-at-school discussion. I don’t believe that everyone needs to be invited once they hit a certain age, but I do believe in being considerate of other people’s feelings. Always.

Starting with his 8th birthday, my plan is to have Matt choose two or three of his closest friends for an outing: maybe a movie or a birthday lunch. Small, but still celebratory. And as for gifts, oh boy, how I’d love to hear the way others handle this. In the past, after the unwrapping I’ve hidden away many of the gifts to take out at a later date. That way they can truly be appreciated. I’ve also asked the birthday boy–a few days before his party–to look around his play space at home and fill a bucket with items he no longer plays with so that we can make a donation to those in need. This is often a lesson in frustration for us both, but I suspect it will get easier with age {his, not mine}.

A birthday is a very special day, and it should be properly marked. I just believe that in this land of plenty we parents can forget ourselves and take it a little too far. Children really would learn to appreciate quality over quantity.

If we only let them try it.

Michelle Colasante’s just a girl and a wife … a mom and a blogger. And a chick with a serious Dunkins’ addiction. She writes over at this little light, sharing tidbits of her daily escapades with The Boy and The Man, her philosophies on life, loss, and motherhood, and her fascination with Polyvore. Michelle loves new friends, so stop by and visit. If you happen to have an iced coffee in hand, she’ll probably invite you to stay!

 

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  1. says

    Simplicity brings love and fun in life so it is great decision to celebrate a birthday party with family members in a simple manner because mutual love is enough to celebrate any kind of party.

  2. says

    This post is chock full of wisdom…I loved hearing your thought process of children’s parties. While I have yet to have kids of my own, I’m hoping to adopt your similar philosophy of quality over quantity. And your last line was perfect, “If only we let them try it.” Amen to that!

    Great post, Michelle!
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  3. says

    ABSOLUTELY agree!!! I had the “all class” parties too. And boy was it exhausting! My favorite idea was having a “recess party” when we invited the entire first grade to the school’s playground and they all just PLAYED!!! every kid loved it…they were all about recess and why not have recess for the party?? Brilliant right? Also FREE!! LOL Now… no parties. (I’m just too tired to be honest) Just family celebrations and a few best buddies and/or girlfriends to enjoy a favorite activity. DONE. :)
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  4. says

    I also struggle with the birthday party thing! Last year for my son’s 6th birthday, we gave him a membership to the Science Museum instead of presents and went there with family as his party. This year, we are going to have friends party at the YMCA for his 7th, only because we are moving the week later and my house will be a disaster zone.
    As far as the presents go, I try to keep myself in check and not ruin his joy. I know it is just stuff, but it is still pretty awesome when you are a kid. Plus, we’ve already moved 7 times in the past 6 yrs, so my boy is used to mom purging the toys before we head out yet again. I let him enjoy them as much as possible and then get rid of what isn’t enjoyed when we are able. And I pray for books…
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