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Jan 31 2012

My Toddler’s Bar Mitzvah-Style Birthday Party

By at 12:24 pm

Tori Spelling throws a first birthday party for her daughter Stella.

If you have a Pinterest account, buy anything on Etsy or frequent the blogosphere you are aware that children’s birthday parties are akin to weddings and award shows. Elaborate dessert tables, bounce houses, face painting, custom t-shirts, designer gift bags–all for a bunch of little nose pickers who your kid swings with at the playground. Perhaps these extravagant parties are given by people who love their child more than I do. Or maybe these people have piles of money laying around that they take bathes in and like to blow on trivial things like fondant. But mostly, I blame Tori Spelling. The “small get togethers” she plans make my parties look like they were financed by panhandling.

Here is my confession. I want my kid to have that amazing party.

I want there to be special favors, themes, food and games. Sure there is a simple sweetness in blowing out a candle on a cupcake with your 2-year-old and opening a few presents before bed, but it just isn’t enough for me. Did you read that last part? ME. Since when is this whole parenting thing about ME? I guess it’s about what I believe to be good enough, worthy enough, for my child. Before my son’s first birthday I asked my husband if we should have a party or just celebrate with cupcakes as a family. He said, “Don’t we HAVE to have a party? I think kids look back on pictures of their birthday to see how much their parents actually loved them.” He was mostly kidding, except maybe he was right.

The dilemma is that I don’t have a Tori Spelling-sized bank account so I will stress myself out for months weeks leading up to the party brainstorming ways to HAND MAKE all of the special things for my son’s party on the cheap. For his first birthday he wanted a ducky theme (and by wanted I mean his favorite words were “Duck!” and “quack, quack”). I made a no-sew bunting with his name on it and cut out 40 little cardboard duck toppers for the cupcakes. I baked him a cake along with the 40 cupcakes and made cute little signs for all of the food (we had a chili bar with a topping station). My kid has more friends that I do, and once you add adult supervision that makes for a lot of people. His party was amazing and I was really proud, but I will admit the week leading up to it I had flashbacks of planning our wedding. It was THAT stressful.

Now we are a month away from his second birthday and I’m going to do it all again. Our theme this year is centered on his favorite book, Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs (Sandra Boynton is a magical genius, now if she’d only sell a party line, we’d be in business!) I’ll design the invitations, plan a menu, bake a bazillion cupcakes and find the perfect favor. My Pinterest account is already talking back to me every time I search for “dinosaur party” saying things like, “these are way too difficult to bake yourself, consider throwing in the towel and buying them” or “seriously? For a 2-year-old??”  But I’m determined. I have a vision which includes stressing myself out so that I can live up to some unrealistic notion that throwing my kid an awesome party is a measure of my love for him. In the end I’ll act like it was no big deal and I’ll truly be happy and proud that we did it.

My toddler is a quiet observer and was so overwhelmed at his first birthday party that he sat and stared at his cake for 15 minutes before planting his face in it. Am I doing him a disservice by throwing him a big party? Am I the only crazy parent who does this? Is it just me or have children’s birthday parties gotten totally out of control?


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