I think we all have Pinterest to thank for the current level of kid party mania. Know any moms who have lost their ever lovin’ minds taking their parties to a “Party Planner to the Stars” level? A level that no average mom should ever feel compelled to pull off?
Tricked out cocoa stations, candy tables with empty goodie bags for each child to scoop out their favorite confections and fluorescent-filled rainbow cakes adorned everything. I remember my friends slaving away over tissue paper flower entryways, crafting the perfect invitations, filling rooms with helium balloons and crepe paper mazes for the perfect wake-up call, all while shopping for hours for the party favor that captured their theme just perfectly. It wasn’t just my friends doing it though.
I was doing it too.
Had I completely lost my mind? This isn’t how my mother did it! You know how my mom party planned? She said, “Invite ONE of your favorite friends for cake and meatloaf.” Yet, somehow I was on this mind-boggling Pinterest spiral like everyone else.
That is, until I realized how very little my kids seemed to care about the fanfare. Actually, I think it made them a little crazy too. They weren’t sure how to handle all the hype and attention. Party games ended up in tears. Sugar crashes ensued. You know what they actually cared about?
Surprise! Their favorite people being there. I mean, isn’t that what we all want? Now please know that I have MANY mom friends who take a ton of pride in their parties and I think it is amazing. We all have our gifts! If, however, you are a mom that has found yourself in a whole lot of crazy that you don’t love, you may find peace in some lessons I’ve learned the hard way.
Ask THEM What They Want
Ok, that may seem like a given, but I know a ton of parents who never ask their kids what they want or choose to plan something different than what their child wished.
Example. Let’s say your child has asked that her birthday party be hosted at a certain fast food restaurant down the street. But you were thinking of a more chic celebration for your little princess.
What to do? Well, it’s her day and if the solution is within your budget, why not let someone else handle the festivities while you munch on fries with your mom friends? One year we did just that, everyone was happy, and I didn’t have to make anything!
Yes, it felt a little humiliating after I had hosted an art gallery opening for my son to debut his work at his last party, complete with handmade appetizers, neatly labeled on easels (I told you I lost my mind). The thing is… IT WASN’T ABOUT ME! All my kid wanted was fries and to play on the germ-infested playground equipment. And you know? That’s what she got. And she was so happy.
Low Budget, Low Sugar, On Theme
Instead of buying the pricey sugary-themed items that match your child’s theme, consider adding labels of your own to healthier fare to keep things fun, healthy and on budget. A vegetable or fruit tray, for example, can be shaped into a rainbow. Fruit-infused water can embrace the color in your theme or can be named to match their favorite characters.
With just a few clever labels and fun twists on the platter, you have all the themed items you need without the added expense (and sugar rages).
Quality over Quantity
Try considering a new birthday tradition that helps your family cut down on the excess and stress of large gatherings.
For us, my favorite is making each kid’s favorite flavor of homemade cake. If they’re old enough, they pitch in and get to lick the beaters. It started out as a way to avoid a high-priced bakery cake. Now, it’s a tradition I look forward to doing each year (and bonus: it really has saved us tons).
Here’s another example. Since my daughter’s birthday falls the week of Christmas, we do a small family celebration on her birthday and then have a friend party during holiday school break when it’s better timing for everyone.
One of my biggest lessons is that most of the party pressures I once felt are ones that I put upon myself.
Whether I plan that perfect Barbie-pink party complete with makeovers and tiaras or if I order pizzas and let her besties sleep over, the happiness level is EXACTLY THE SAME. Sometimes our kids have things figured out better than we do. It’s not about the perfect theme, it’s about the perfect guest list. And you know what? That’s the part that’s simple and free. Embrace it!