Elaborate Birthday Parties Are For Us, Not Our Kids

by Mike Julianelle
Originally Published: 
Image via shutterstock

Blogger reminds us that we’re making our kids’ birthday parties harder on ourselves than they need to be

In September, when my son turned five, we threw him an elaborate pirate-themed birthday party in the park.

My wife handcrafted invitations that were styled to look like treasure maps (complete with scorched edges), we got there early to hide party favors around the park for a scavenger hunt, all the kids received eye-patches and plastic swords, and there was a pirate-ship pinata. My son and his friends had a blast.

It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. As soon as it ended, we immediately started planning for his sixth birthday party. These things are intense.

There can be a lot of pressure, in today’s social media saturated age, to live up to the Pinterest paragons, Instagram ideals, and Facebook fantasies that populate the parenting landscape. And there can be a lot of pressure to outdo whatever you did last time. The competitive aspects of parenting can turn into a grind, and we can lose sight of what’s really important. Our kids don’t need all the pomp and circumstance to have a good time.


Yesterday, Bunmi Laditan helped remind us of that with a sweet post on her Facebook page, in which she reminisced about her favorite childhood birthday party, in the midst of planning her daughter’s.

[shareable_quote]And then I remembered the best birthday party of my childhood. I can’t recall one gift I received, I do remember sitting on balloons until they popped with my friends.[/shareable_quote]

The mom behind The Honest Toddler writes, “And then I remembered the best birthday party of my childhood. I was eight and while I can’t recall one gift I received, I do remember sitting on balloons until they popped with my friends. We laughed hysterically as we ran through my very humble home and small backyard area. I loved my cake, not because it was fancy but because my mom made it and it was my favorite: vanilla with chocolate frosting. It was from a box mix and she served it right out of the 9×13 well-used pan.”

She goes on to describe the refreshingly theme-free party she’s throwing her daughter and her friends, which didn’t feature meticulously crafted Pinterest-inspired decorations or cupcakes, and didn’t focus on elaborate activities or expensive entertainment or bouncy houses. It featured “water guns in the backyard and plenty of grass to run on…baked cupcakes (from a mix)…enough juice to go around.”

She closes her post by explaining her motivation. “There’s nothing wrong with a grand affair, but today I want my kids to see that life doesn’t have to be gift wrapped to be a gift.” It’s a message many of us would do well to remember, that our kids don’t care about outdoing the party Sally from Mom’s high school threw her kid, or how close the cupcake designs came to the version Mom copied from Instagram.

These parties aren’t for us, they’re for our children. They don’t browse Pinterest looking for the best cupcake design, and they’re not in competition with people on Facebook whom they haven’t spoken to in twenty years.

Bunmi is right. Our kids can make just as many birthday memories in the backyard or the basement playroom, with friends, family, and a slice or two of ice cream cake. We don’t need to make having fun so much work.

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