My twins recently turned six years old. Every single year, since their birth, I’ve thrown them a birthday party. It’s the one event (other than Christmas) that they look forward to every single year. We talk about it from the day after their birthday until the day of their birthday the next year. They are excited about every facet of their celebration, and every year, we stay on a budget. It’s not about how much we spend on them (believe me, it’s not a lot) — it’s about the memories they will have forever, and for me, that is priceless.
I have absolutely zero memories of my own mother celebrating my birthdays with me, other than my twenty-fifth birthday. For that one, she brought along her friends, all recovering addicts, all of whom showered me with love and my favorite kind of ice cream cake. They sang happy birthday to me, and mostly, made me feel celebrated — even if a little uncomfortable because that year, they were my “only” friends. Yes, it was a special year!
As a mother, it is important for me to help my kids make memories, and there is nothing better than having memories from the very day they were born. We start planning for their birthday a month or so before. We are those last minute planners, my wife and I. But it always comes together in the end, and if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
This year, we asked our kiddos to give us a few friends — three each — that they wanted to invite. They gave us their lists and it was up to us to make it happen. We texted parents we’d never met (thanks, COVID) and texted out Canva-made invites to friends from their kindergarten class and neighbors.
The party was held at our local beach, with a theme of — you guessed it — “beach party”. (Holding a child’s birthday party at your own home is great until it’s time for cleanup, which rivals any teenager’s unsupervised house party.) We ordered pizza, and cupcakes from my favorite cupcake store. Let’s be honest, if we are spending money on the party, the food has to be enjoyable to the said planners. So, I may have slightly overspent on the cupcakes, but really, it was all for my own enjoyment. I brought them into the world, and this is one of my rewards for doing so: a delicious, well made piece of cake, or cupcake as it were.
Everyone had a wonderful time, even the parents. We got to socialize with adults. Our kids got to chit-chat with their friends. They got to be kids, outside, in the sun.
The fact is, birthday parties do not need to be expensive to be memorable. Their first birthday party was held in our backyard. We ordered pizza and had an ice-cream cake with a small group of family and their good friends. We didn’t have to impress them; they were babies. As they’ve grown, we do spend a little more on their birthdays; this year, they received their biggest gift yet, a Power Wheel – one to share between the two of them. But for their actual birthday party, it was (mostly) a free event. A free venue, cupcakes and pizza, and favors bought from the Dollar Store.
The very act of celebrating something is free. It’s how we choose to celebrate that can (or cannot) make it costly. The beauty of a cheap birthday party is that there’s no pressure to make something perfect because you spent a small fortune on it. And everybody knows that a more relaxed party host makes for a better party.
Aside from my own bougie taste for cupcakes, our kids’ birthday parties are a time for us, as their moms, to look around and relish in the fact that we all made it another year, together, happy, and healthy. We celebrate that feat, because it’s worthy of all the cake and the pizza in the world. Make those memories — just don’t break your bank to do so.