On our birthday we were lucky if we got a card, let alone a cake. I imagine it had a lot to do with how my mom grew up and what she saw as being important from a time and money standpoint. No matter what the reason, my mom just wasn’t into birthdays. I remember one year, I think I was in grade 5 or 6, I asked if I could have a party and my mom agreed as long as I did all the work. I thought it would be great to have a haunted house type of experience in the basement with slimy eyeballs [peeled grapes] and slippery worms [cold noodles]. I invited the whole class and if memory serves me correctly, most showed up. I was very pleased with myself because I had never organized anything like it before, until I overheard comments between two classmates in the playground the week after saying that it was the worst party ever. Totally boring. I can still feel the hurt and sadness my little self experienced as their words sunk in.
I didn’t throw another birthday party until my son turned 1. Yes, I know a 1 year old will NEVER remember it. In fact as adults we don’t remember much before 3-4 years of age. But making his birthday an event was important to me for many reasons. First, I wanted to test the waters again and learn how to throw a party that would never be labeled ‘worst’ or ‘boring’ by my kids’ future classmates. I had four years to get my head around how to do it and there wasn’t a birthday that I was going to waste. Second, I always want my children to know how grateful I am to have them. As adults, we are in the lucky position to choose to have a child but who a child gets as as parents is completely outside their control. Last, and perhaps most important, I want my children to know that they are worth the time and effort of throwing an over-the-top birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I try to make sure my children feel special in lots of different ways and I carve out time to spend with them one-on-one. But having an event that celebrates just being you? There’s magic in that.
I know it’s not for everyone and some people will say that I’m setting my kids up to expect huge birthdays forever more. That I’m spoiling them. That I’m perpetuating the culture of entitlement. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. I have a friend who threw big parties for her oldest and as her daughter got older the parties became just a small group of friends doing something together. You may not agree with me, and that’s ok. But I’ve got this party thing down pat so my kids can celebrate any way they want.