August is rough, man. I’m dizzy with back to school clothes and supplies, the endless forms and fees, immunizations, sports practices, work, bills and trying to squeeze the last drop out of this short and sweet summer with one final trip to the lake. If that doesn’t overload the mom brain, try adding four birthdays into the mix and it’s almost enough to make me run away to California to join an orange-picking commune.
But I may have to start protesting birthdays. Why not? Everyone else is protesting something these days and I believe I have finally found a cause worth fighting for.
You know how it is, though. Sometimes an extra little thing, like a birthday party, can put you over the edge. Sometimes.
You’re a good mom (or dad), right? You sacrifice so much for your children. You love your little hearts like crazy and you want them to have fond memories of their childhood, especially on their birthdays.
However, if you have more than one kid, throwing a big blowout party a few times every year might add a few grays to your pretty little head. Birthday parties these days ain’t cheap either, my friends. I’m here to tell you, or rather convince myself, that you can let go of the guilt if you choose to give your child a lazy birthday instead.
When I write these posts, I always like to compare the way things were for me when I was a child so you guys will be able to understand where my perspective comes from. Sorry for being redundant but I think it might also help some of these young moms, who only left childhood some ten to twenty years ago, catch a glimpse of how things were actually done (ahem) thirty to forty-some years ago.
I had an amazing childhood and I don’t mean to get down on myself but it was probably a far better childhood than the one I’m giving my own kids right now. Even though I’m trying my hardest to give them those magical childhood moments, the world has changed so much and sometimes what excited me as a kid doesn’t always translate to my modern children.
I came from modest means and in no way was I spoiled with things but I was spoiled with unselfish, sacrificial love from both of my parents. More importantly, I knew it then as much as I know it now. Somehow, I learned to be thankful for the things I did have. For the things I didn’t, I may have hoped for them but I never expected them.
My birthdays were always simple.
Back then, I think every kid had relatively similar birthdays. Kids came over to the house, played together for a while and maybe had a snack. Parents set up a few games like pin the tail on the donkey or balloon pop. If you won one of those games, you were able to pick out a small prize. Cake and presents followed and that was it.
Occasionally, because I was lucky enough to live a block away from the ocean, I would have birthday parties on the beach with a pinata. Those were great. How could they not be? I imagine they didn’t cost much either.
On a side note, here’s a fun fact about me:
At one of those parties where you try to pop as many balloons as you can by sitting on them, one balloon snapped, stinging my tiny tush and from then on, I was not a fan. I believe that incident is probably why I’m deathly afraid of balloons to this day–shut it, we all have something weird about us so try not to roll your eyes too much but I literally go into mini panic attacks when I see them being blown up or played with. You won’t find a latex balloon at any of my kids’ birthdays. EVER. It’s mylar all the way baby, because for whatever reason, I’m ok with those.
I don’t know about you guys but so many birthday parties today go far beyond the typical cake and ice cream parties we had in the 80s. I’m completely guilty of going overboard myself in terms of planning and cost.
I’ve thrown the birthday parties at our gymnastics gym, trampoline parks, roller skating rinks (probably the cheapest), and indoor bouncehouse playgrounds. On average, you’re spending $300 a pop for one of those locations and that doesn’t count the cake, decorations, gift bags, and presents. Now you’re pushing close to $600 on up.
I’ve done the home birthdays, too. It’s actually more work, stress, and it certainly doesn’t lessen the cost in any way. Remember, you’re competing with backyard inflatables birthdays and bowling with laser tag parties that other kids are having so you’re forced to step it up a notch when you invite those same kids over to celebrate your child.
I admit, I went a little crazy once for my daughter’s 7th birthday party. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was there to help otherwise I would’ve bitten off way more than I could chew had I been running the show alone. We had a pizza making station for the girls to custom-make their own personal pizza, an ice cream sundae station complete with candy and sprinkles along with cute plastic waffle bowls and mini aprons the girls got to take home, games including a homemade bingo game tailored to the theme with stellar prizes, and a tea party-like table outfitted for a group of princesses.
It was an amazing party but…damn. That was some work.
Her 11th birthday slumber party had less girls but the planning and labor was just as intense. It’s probably why I shy away from these kinds of parties because I’m not saving much of anything by doing it all on my own.
The truth is, I can’t out-do myself every year for each one of my three kids’ birthdays–that would be insane. Besides, not only is it not financially feasible to do so, spoiling my kids incessantly is not going to build good character. I have enough issues with their characters as it is and we need to instill a little more modesty and appreciation into this household since brattiness seems to be routine these days.
However, once you set the bar so high to begin with, anything less sometimes feels a little lame. If you’re going to make this work, you have to shake that feeling off. When you realize that you aren’t going to give your kid a Kardashian-style birthday party this time around, you have to get comfortable with taking it down a notch. Or two. Or three.
Then you teach your entitled children to be okay with it, too.
You explain to your birthday prince or princess that as amazing as their party was last year, it’s not going to be like that every year and you start these explanations 364 days before they turn another year older.
Of course you promise them that they’ll have a great birthday regardless and that they will still be the special person of honor that day, it just won’t be quite the crowning ceremony that they may have had in the past. Surprisingly, my own naturally demanding children were pretty receptive to this and for that, I’m grateful.
I think giving them a heads up ahead of time helped. I think explaining the cost and the amount of planning that goes into large birthday parties from an adult perspective helped. I think it helped to give them a choice between having kids over with a few small gifts or having a family celebration instead with maybe a few extra presents they might have been asking for. Communication between myself and my children is, ultimately, what helped me turn a lazy kid birthday into a success.
So what exactly is a lazy kid birthday?
Honestly, it’s whatever you want it to be but for me, it goes a little something like this:
You nix the whole party with a bunch of kids idea. You don’t invite anyone that you feel you somewhat have to impress. You order a simple cake, buy a few decorations, and birthday presents. Then you and your birthday boy/girl pick one fun thing to do with the family for the day.
Things like going to:
- An amusement park
- A waterpark
- The zoo
- An aquarium
- A children’s museum
- A circus
- A shopping excursion
- A movie theater or drive-in
- A beach for swimming and a BBQ
- A concert or musical
- A trampoline or other indoor park
- A bowling alley
- An arcade with laser tag
- A hotel with a pool for the night
- A go-kart track or mini golf course
- A roller rink or ice skating rink
Many of these things can be ideas for birthdays with multiple children coming as guests too, but we’re not talking about those kinds of parties right now–the goal is lazy, ok? We’re keepin’ it simple.
Now my little guy just turned six so we didn’t need to go into the nitty gritty about costs and planning the way I had to with my soon to be twelve year-old. But, I did present him with many of the aforementioned options, all relatively doable and easy. In the end, we spent the day at the waterpark followed by a Toy Story themed, small family gathering for cake and presents.
So let’s compare:
- $50 waterpark fee for a family of five vs. $300 plus fee for your pick of a kid-friendly place with a staff-run party.
- Floating on a lazy river and only having to keep track of my own three minions vs. trying to count 10-15 heads of other people’s kids every twenty minutes, not to mention, attending to everyone else’s needs as a good host usually does.
- Cleaning the house and decorating for my birthday boy, auntie, and grandparents vs. going to great lengths to setting up a party that is both entertaining for the children as well as some of those parents that choose to stick around.
- My six year old being thrilled with his presents and his birthday vs. my six year old being thrilled with his presents and his birthday…So, am I saying that it actually didn’t matter that I didn’t throw a big ta’ do for those six candles on his cake?
Yep, that’s what I’m sayin’.
My son was happy just the way we did it. He’s a little kid. It was his birthday. He did something fun. He got cake and presents. He was extra special that day. Maybe he’s just easy to please but I’m telling you, it was enough.
The pre-teen might be a different story…
My daughter’s birthday is in a few weeks and we did have the talk. We have it every day actually because her birthday is priority number one in her view. She wants a new cell phone. Ugh.
I was never much into her having a phone in the first place but since landlines are obsolete these days and dad was supportive, I gave in. A while back, she got one of our crappy old phones which, if it worked properly, there is no way in hell I’d consider buying her a new phone. But, now it’s even beyond just crappy and it does really weird things that would drive any sane person crazy so again, I relented. She does need a properly working phone if I’m going to have her occasionally babysit her younger brothers, right? So it might be in my best interest anyway.
She won’t get a new phone without a sacrifice though. She wants an iPhone and even the slightly older versions costs a pretty penny so there won’t be a grand soiree in her birthday honor or numerous, expensive gifts either. Another lazy birthday is now headed my daughter’s way. Perhaps we’ll have a small family dinner party at her favorite restaurant, The Cheesecake Factory, with a few simple presents next to her prettily wrapped iPhone.
Each time Miss Tweeny adds to her birthday list, I have to gently remind her that we are not made of money and if she wants many of the things she’s asking for, she’s welcome to trade the phone in for them. That usually ends the conversation right there so I think we’re making progress. In any case, I do think after all of the months she’s suffered with a phone you have to literally beat now and then to get it to work, getting a new one in her hand should make for an awesome birthday.
Will I ever throw big parties for my kids again?
Of course. I actually have fun planning out events like that so long as they are few and far between. Besides, it doesn’t end with the birthdays. There will be graduation parties, weddings, and baby showers in my future. I’m going to need my strength for those one day so that’s why I can’t allow myself to feel guilty if I want to take it easy with a few of these kid birthdays.
Whichever way we go, birthdays will always be special because we’re celebrating the life of those that we love dearly. When it’s the life of our very own children, those are definitely moments to cherish and go a little out of our way for, but we don’t need to give them a whole Disneyworld parade everytime another candle is added to their cake.
In the end, no matter how big or small the celebration, the love we have for our children will always shine through. Hopefully, our kids will be able to look back on those childhood birthdays and it will be the joyful feelings that they remember, not whether or not they had mounds of presents or extravagant parties.
Have you had any lazy kid birthdays that were surprisingly awesome for both you and your birthday child? Do you have any other easy birthday ideas to add to the list?
Let me know ’cause I have a few more kid birthdays to get through before I make it to the dinner and a gift card stage of birthday parenting!