Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why We Said Goodbye to Traditional Birthday Parties

I am one of those moms who loves to plan birthday parties. As soon as one child's party is over, I'm already looking ahead to the next child's big day!  What theme do they want?  What decorations can I make?  How will the cake look?  But, about a year ago, I changed the way we did birthdays, and it's made all the difference in my own stress level and how we approach birthdays as a family.

Last year, we celebrated Little C's first birthday with a big Mickey Mouse Birthday Bash.  I spent weeks crafting homemade decorations, planning food, making invitations, creating favors and making customized Mickey Mouse t-shirts.  I loved it, but it was a LOT of work and I was exhausted.  Then, two days before his birthday HALF of his guest list let us know that they weren't coming after all.  We had followed popular wisdom and only invited family for this first birthday, and now exactly one set of his aunts and uncles would be coming (thank goodness for them!).  I was devastated and just so sad for my little boy!  Later, I realized that I was equally upset for myself since I had put all that work into a party that no one was going to see.  I threw myself a rather fantastic pity party and then I realized that I was looking at these birthday parties all wrong!

I was using my children's birthday parties as a way to show off all these Pinterest-worthy projects to a bunch of people that they didn't even really know.  So, immediately after that, I changed how we do birthdays.

Why We Said Goodbye to Traditional Birthday Parties - Mamas Like Me 

For my 5-year-old's birthday, I asked him what kind of party HE wanted and who HE wanted to invite.  Turns out, he only wanted to invite his 3 best friends.  So, that's what we did!  We had a fantastic Super Hero Academy for 3 friends and his 3 siblings.  I got to make some fun crafts (that I really do enjoy).  The boys HELPED me put together some fun goodie bags and Batman-themed food and everyone had a great time!  Less stress and less toy clutter from all those gifts that we really don't need!

For my 8-year-old's birthday, he wanted to have it at the bowling alley and invite the whole class.  The last time we had a party away from home, we used the Church Hall and threw a Carnival Party.  It was a huge to-do with a magician, DIY carnival games, face-painting, a photographer, and lots of yummy carnival party food!  THIS was nothing like that.  We rented the bowling alley at the Student Center of a local university.  I made a Lego cake, brought snacks, and used recycled decorations from our party box.  The craftiest thing I did was to make DIY Lego crayons for the goodie bags and include printed coloring pages.  The kids had a blast and I felt so stress-free.  My sister and mother even swooped in and had the whole thing cleaned up before it was time for us to leave.  They're pretty awesome that way!

After that party, I took another step back from the party chaos for my 3-year-old's Jake and the Neverland Pirates party.  I still made his cake because that is my children's favorite part of their birthdays, but we didn't even really throw a traditional party.  I asked my son who he wanted to invite and he told me he wanted his 3 best friends from daycare.  Since those kids are here every day, I saw absolutely no reason to throw a separate party.  I went downstairs to our party box for balloons and streamers, used his pirate toys for decorations and we played some simple games during our regular daycare day.  He loved his "party" and it was completely stress-free for me!

Now, we're coming full circle and my youngest son will be turning 2.  I've begun working on Elmo decorations to go along with his current infatuation.  I have fun ideas for goodie bags and some great games already in the works, but he will not be having a traditional birthday either.  Like his brother, his friends and the people he loves are those that he sees all the time.  We'll be having our party during daycare and then having dinner with family.  In fact, I'm planning a whole week of Sesame Street activities at daycare in honor of his big day!

For the next birthday, my 6-year-old has requested a trip to an amusement park with his best friend for his birthday.  Since we take the boys every year, we saw no reason not to bring an extra friend instead of throwing a party.  My oldest is hoping that he'll be able to take two friends snow-tubing instead of a party this winter for his birthday.  With each birthday, we're moving farther away from the Pinterest-inspired extravaganzas.

It took me awhile to realize that I didn't have to throw parties the way everyone expected.  I didn't have to invite everyone we'd ever met or try to impress people we barely associate with.  I didn't need fancy invitations or the homemade decorations, but I could do those things as long as I wanted to and I was doing them for the right reasons (not to impress anyone, but just because I enjoyed doing it and my kids enjoyed having them).  The only thing that really mattered was that my children had a great time and felt loved on their special day.  For them, that means that Mommy makes their cake, that there are balloons in the house, and that they get to do something special just for them.

What about you?  What do birthday parties look like in your house?

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  1. I totally agree with you Tina! Throwing huge, complicated parties isn't necessary. I typically ask my kiddos what they'd "like", and I go from there. I don't do too much extra. I get a cake from the grocery store & top it with toys or decor in the "theme" they chose. They love it! We also just invite who they want to invite - that's it. And we stop inviting once there are 3 or 4 kids that can make it.

    My 4-year-old had her first sleepover...just 2 other friends. Pizza, popcorn, sleeping bags on the living room floor, and Disney princess movies: they had a blast! Then my 5-year-old wanted a "jewelry" party. So I got some cheap plastic jewelry from Wal-Mart, she had like 4-5 girls over, & we got out the dress-up clothes for the evening. Constant giggles and squeals all evening. Not bad for going cheap & simple!

    As far as decor, I just tie some balloons to the kitchen chairs, get a cheap festive table cloth, and make the cake the centerpiece.

    1. Thanks Rebecca! That jewelry party sounds like so much fun! I am definitely learning my lesson about the joys of those smaller parties :) Thanks for commenting!

  2. Amen to all that. The last two birthdays we had, I still went all pinterest on them, but it was just us...birthday kid and their siblings...so when I didn't finish everything, I didn't even care. We planned it like people were coming over with games and crafts, but it was just us and it was great!

    BTW I just found your blog from pinterest and am looking forward to reading more!

    1. Welcome! We sound very similar! I really enjoy crafting and trying out new things from Pinterest, but I just hate feeling that it's necessary or that someone is going to judge my results. I've loved our last few parties because they were so stress-free and just plain FUN! Thanks for stopping by :)

  3. I have slowly stopped inviting as many people as well. I invite only people that come most of the time. So even if you are family, if you decide to skip out on 2 of my 3 kids parties in a year don't expect to be invited back (unless you have a really good reason). My kids are perfectly happy to have their cousins and a few kids! I also don't decorate quite as much as you do. It is really cute, but I do not have the time! lol

    1. Ashley, I absolutely agree! Unfortunately, some of my kids have already figured out that certain relatives only show up for certain siblings and I'm just not okay with that. As for decorating and cakes, I really do love it! My husband was teasing me last night while I was making Elmo goodie bags. He never reads my blog, but he happened to see this one. I had to remind him that I never said I wasn't going to do the things I actually "like" doing. Besides, other than a few daycare kids, no one will ever see it :) Thanks for commenting!