“Every party has a pooper, that’s why we invited you — party pooper, party pooper!”
Is it just me, or does everyone feel like their once-active social life has been replaced with being dragged from one child’s birthday extravaganza to the next? Don’t get me wrong — celebrating a birthday is a big deal. I’m just wondering who made the rule that all birthday parties have to be the same? It’s as if someone sat down with every mother, gave them all a birthday outline, and forbid them to stray from it.
You arrive at the event space, sign a waiver for your child to continuously risk his life for the next hour, and watch as the kids are herded in like animals. You then stand around with the other parents making small talk, surrounded by the smell of sweaty feet, watching your child dodge one near-death experience after another. As you do everything you can to not be “that” parent — you know, the one who follows her child everywhere yelling, “Be careful!” — you stand there, poker face on, squirming in your own skin. You finally find the parents you actually like, and while chatting it up you realize you haven’t seen one blurry glimpse of your child in at least seven and a half minutes, and you start frantically searching from trampoline to trampoline, bouncy house to bouncy slide, or ball pit to climbing structure, eventually diving into the obstacle bouncy house after you’ve convinced yourself your pride and joy has been trampled. Of course you soon learn you missed the whistle and the kid has already moved into the bad pizza/overdone birthday cake room.
But a birthday doesn’t have to be this concocted, smelly feet, 20+ guest list (plus parents and uninvited siblings) formula we have all followed (myself included). Instead, let’s think a little outside the box. Tone down the guest list, do something unique, and get some better food on the menu. There are many ways to stray from the rules with only a few friends or (gasp) no friends, while still creating a memorable day for your birthday boy or girl.
The age rule
Invitations can get out of hand quickly — you invited Sammy and Joey, so how could you not invite Johnny? Before you know it, the small birthday party you thought you were planning turns into the Golden Globes. But it doesn’t have to. As your children get older, let them invite as many friends as they are in years to your house or to a special activity.
There is nothing more exciting to a child than going on vacation and walking into a hotel room, but who says you have to get on a plane to have that experience? You can get some great deals on apps like Hotel Tonight. Order a movie, jump on the beds, and light that candle on the birthday cake. The glamour and excitement of hotel living will, without a doubt, create a birthday night to remember!
This is an especially great option for those with younger children (calling all moms about to throw a big bash for your baby’s first birthday!). Larger parties are often overwhelming and end in tears, so opt for something not so stress inducing and more enjoyable for everyone — especially the young birthday child. Order some balloons and invite grandparents and other close relatives for a quiet brunch and intimate affair.
This is geared toward older children, and it’s a great time to implement the age rule. Wait until the kids are old enough and everyone has experienced plenty of sleepovers — this way no one asks to call their mom at midnight, and parent involvement can be limited. There’s not much planning necessary other than to expect a lot of giggling and hope they go to sleep at some point.
A birthday is all about celebrating the individual, so why not give your birthday boy or girl an entire day planned around him or her. Start off with a special birthday breakfast, then let the child choose some exciting activities, and end the day with an extra large piece of birthday cake. I don’t know one child who wouldn’t love a whole day dedicated to them.
An event to remember
Instead of making the birthday party the event, take your child to an event to remember. Maybe there’s a sports team they’ve been cheering on from home, or maybe you could introduce them to the magical world of theater through Wheelock Family Theater, or maybe Disney on Ice is in town. Whatever the special event you take your child to, an experience like this is something your child will speak of for years to come.
How have you opted out of a big birthday bash and celebrated your child’s birthday in a special way?