In eight years of motherhood, I’ve hosted approximately 13 birthday parties. Some have been big, and some have been small. Some have been easy, and some have been epic. What they’ve all had in common is that they’ve all been a pain in the ass. It’s not that my children’s birthdays aren’t momentous occasions to celebrate. It’s that the anxiety and anguish involved in hosting parties in their honor distract us time and time again from what’s important.
I’ve been trying for a while now to end the madness – to shift to less material and more meaningful forms of celebration – but so far I’ve been colossally unsuccessful in this endeavor. As such, you can imagine my surprise and delight when my soon-to-be 6-year-old son uttered these magical words: “I don’t want a birthday party.”
And so began my journey to finally – for the love of all that is good and holy – celebrate a birthday but NOT throw a birthday party. If you, too, are searching for tried and true (i.e. useless) and foolproof (i.e. idiotic) strategies to skip the party this year, follow these 21 simple steps:
1. Offer your child a birthday getaway instead of a party. It will cost three to four times as much, but you’ll make precious family memories. That, and you won’t have to clean your house, hunt down RSVPs, and mastermind one-of-a-kind, Pinterest-inspired party favors about which no one will give a crap.
2. Come up with a fun and affordable idea to mark the actual day of your child’s birthday since you don’t leave town until two days later.
3. Price out à la carte admission for two adults and four kids at a local arcade. Quickly calculate that booking a party package (with a 10 kid minimum) would be cheaper, but technically speaking would be a birthday party, so fugetaboutit.
4. Tell your child he can invite a few friends to the house for a play date. You’ll get a small birthday cake. And a fruit platter.
5. Once panic settles in that you’ve agreed to invite a small but boisterous bunch of boys to your home, rent a bounce house for the backyard. It will give the play date structure and (hopefully) keep the kids from trashing the house.
6. Clean said house. Fill and dispose of fifteen garbage bags of clutter. Also, transfer the dozen piles of stuff that live on your dining room table to the spare bedroom. Close and lock the door behind you.
7. Minimize sibling rivalry by allowing your older child to invite a friend or two (or three) to the play date. Also, be neighborly and include the kids from next door and across the street.
8. Stay organized by sending an Evite to keep track of who’s coming over. Be sure to choose a design that doesn’t include the word “party.”
9. Say “yes” when your child asks for a piñata at the play date because his brother had a piñata at his last birthday party and you can’t do for one and not the other.
10. While at the party store buying a piñata, order a few balloons. It’s a birthday, after all. Also, purchase candy for the piñata and goodie bags for the candy, and because you’re an out-of-control shopaholic, buy two eight-packs of paper Skylanders masks and 16 mini-packs of sidewalk chalk because you’re crazy.
11. Buy fresh flowers for the naked dining room table and the main bathroom because it makes perfect sense to place a flower arrangement in the room where your kids spray pee everywhere but in the toilet.
12. Follow up with parents who haven’t RSVP’d because you need a damn head count.
13. Wrap the present you bought for your child because even though the getaway is his gift, he’ll go postal if he doesn’t also unwrap the Skylanders Trap Team Starter Pack.
14. On the morning of the play date, run around like a bat shit crazy lady picking up balloons, the cake, snacks, drinks, and the fruit platter. Remember at the last minute to buy cake candles and two bags of ice. Bleeping ice!
15. Get home just in time for the ginormous bounce house to be set up.
16. Correct every parent who drops off their kid and thanks you for inviting them to the party with, “It’s just a play date,” as they hand you a birthday present, for which you’ll need to write a thank you note.
17. Shake your head (and pour a glass of wine) when after ten minutes of playing in the bounce house, the kids run wild through the house until the play date is over.
18. Sing “Happy Birthday,” watch your child simultaneously revel in and cower from the attention (just as you would), and hope every wish he ever makes in his beautiful life comes true as he spits out the candles on his birthday cake.
19. Let the kids smack the piñata, and watch in horror as they attack one another to collect every last bit of candy that hits the ground.
20. Offer everyone a mask and sidewalk chalk as they leave, and remind the one kid who says, “That’s it?” that it was just a play date as you shove his ungrateful butt out the door.
21. Clean the house (again), move your piles of stuff back to the dining room table where they belong, pack for the trip, and rejoice in knowing that you did NOT under any circumstances throw a birthday party.
Related post: 10 Ways Birthday Parties Suck
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