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Challenge: Happy Birthday!

Keeping Birthdays Simple in a World of Over-the-Top Celebrations

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I like to keep birthday parties low-key and for many reasons we don't have a party for each of our kids every year. And since my daughter started kindergarten, we’ve been invited to numerous birthday parties and there are a lot of things that bother me about how we celebrate kids’ birthdays now.

  • I HATE that every child in the class has to be invited. When we get an invitation to a party from a parent I don’t know for a kid my daughter never talks about, truthfully, I’m irritated. Of course my kid is going to want to go so we’ll have to take out of our minimal family time and buy the kid a present and chances are we’ll never hear from the kid or parent again.
  • As much as I hate the every child must be invited, I just as much hate that most birthday parties are now at “play places”. What happened to having a birthday party at home? I don’t enjoy parties where I have to chase my kid around and the kids hardly even talk to each other.
  • Goodie bags, ugh! These are nothing new, we had them growing up and as exciting as they are for the kids, I have so much goodie bag junk laying around it’s ridiculous. If I wanted my kid to have candy, nail polish and messy goo, I would buy it for her but instead I’m stuck with being the “meanest mommy ever” when I tell them they can’t have it.
  • Short and sweet, or just short? Most parties held at venues that specially do birthday parties are 2 hours. That’s it, you’re done! A little playing (AKA chasing your kid around), some mediocre pizza, blow out the candles, gobble up the cake and get the heck out! No time for opening presents, socializing or anything else birthday related (other than the cake).
  • Every birthday is celebrated in blow out fashion with every person the child and parent has ever known or met. I’m all for celebrating each and every birthday a child has but I don’t think it needs to be a huge celebration with everyone in the world.
  • There is always a question on WHO exactly is invited. Are parents expected to stay? (at my kids' age, the answer is usually yes). But what about siblings? Of course if Honeybun goes, Sugarplum will want to go and I have no problem saying no but it IS our family time... (our solution to this for our last party which was at a bowling alley was to get our own lane so Sugarplum could bowl too).

So how do I do it? We keep it small and simple.

  • We only party once every few years. In the 9 birthdays my children have had, we’ve only had 2 parties (each of the girl’s 3rd). Every other birthday was spent with whatever family was in town (or on many occasions, just us!)
  • When we do have a party, we keep the crowd small. I believe in inviting one child for each year old the child is (Honeybun will be 6 this year so she invited 6 friends). This keeps the crowd to a size that is age appropriate and not overwhelming for the child and keeps the focus on the child, not the crowd. (Plus, having two July birthdays means I’ll never have to invite the whole class!!!)
  • SONY DSC Up to now, our kids’ birthday parties have always been at home. It just keeps things simple and everyone comfortable. (Even all their non-party birthday celebrations have been at home with the exception of Honeybun’s 5th when we went to Disney World.) This time we are going to an art studio where the kids will get to paint a piece of pottery and do a sand art but they will be sitting together at a table doing their crafts where they can enjoy each other's company and the parents can socialize as well!
  • No presents, please. The last two parties we’ve had I politely requested no presents (though we did get some anyways). I don’t believe birthdays are about the presents but this year I’m allowing it mostly because Honeybun is expecting it after being to so many parties and buying presents for her friends (and after all the money we’ve spent on other people’s kids, we deserve a little something back, right?) but I’m definitely not looking forward to all the new stuff I’ll have to find a home for in our already overcrowded playroom!DSC06958
  • The whole family is ALWAYS invited. If I invite a kid with siblings, they are invited too and added into my count if necessary. Birthdays are family celebrations and I try to guide my children to invite friends that we know the parents of so of course we'll welcome the entire family!

    This was previously published on Beyond Mommying.

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