Monday, February 26, 2007

Birthday Party Neurosis

My son Ethan will be 5 in March. I'll admit it. I've been thinking for the last several weeks about what we are going to do this year. Last year was Pump it Up. All in, costs reached $400-500. I'm pretty sure that didn't include Ethan's gifts. I don't feel too much guilt about over doing-it for Ethan's third birthday--I just had McKenna and I was pretty wiped out from all night feedings. We ended up having a family gathering at Aunt Joan's house. Even then, though, we took Ethan and his cousin to Rainforest Cafe. His second birthday was a home party with mostly family but I went all out with treat bags, a gourmet cake, alcohol for the adults, and games for everyone, and who knows what else. His first birthday party was a big deal--at least 40 people. Tons of money spent on food, alcohol for the adults, decorations, etc. The food was catered. With the exception of his third birthday, I've always done what my friend Trish labeled as "the wiz-bang invitation". McKenna's birthdays have been at theme restaurants and both times we have spent no less than $500 in food tabs alone.

I'm rethinking all of this. The kids don't need it--I'm not even sure they want it. It's a mommy thing or, to be more specific, it's a Leigh thing. We all play our childhood tapes in our head. Mine are on overdrive , I suspect. We didn't have birthday parties growing up. There may have been a store bought cake and some wrapped presents. I recall that Grandma did her best to put a little neighborhood friends party together. Bless her heart, I remember being embarrassed because we ate cake and ice cream off of old timey glass plates. I wanted Barbie paper plates and cool party games. That wasn't Janie's way. But she tried.

I will never forget turning ten. We had recently moved to our house. Out of the duplex and into a real bona fide slum of a home. It was beyond dilapidated. Looking back, there wasn't an extra cent to be had. It took everything they had, and then some, to get that meager slice of the dream. My celebration that year consisted of one wrapped gift, given to me at 9pm at night. A butterfly top from Mervyn's. How do you like it? Great. Nightie night. No party, no commemorations. Honestly, no effort. Some birthdays were actually worse than this, a few were better. Thanks to my grandparents and my Aunt, I had birthdays that made me feel special and loved. But none were wiz bang.

I'm not talking about spending a ton of money--although I have done that. I just want my kids to know that the day that they entered the world MEANS THE WORLD to Mommy and Daddy. I want both of my kids to look back and say, "Wow, Mom and Dad gave it their all".

So, I'm going to try to find some other ways to build great memories for my children. I still love kids parties and I will probably always will. I'm just going to chill...a bit.

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