I never wanted to be the kind of mom who went over the top for my kid’s birthday. In past years, I’ve bragged about the fact that we didn’t rent a fancy space, but opted instead to host at our local playground so the kids can run around on their sugar highs. We’ve always tried to keep the menu simple: just sandwiches, fruit, and cake. In fact, for my daughter’s first birthday I didn’t make a single thing–I let all my professional baker friends cater the afternoon affair.
But if I am being honest I can admit that I completely and totally obsess over her birthday, relishing each moment of indulgent party planning. I have always fancied myself something of a party planner, and in fact used to run events for a philanthropic foundation in my past life. So I do have some experience with arranging all the details of timing and food and entertainment and decorations. And I love it.
And this year–her 3rd birthday–was my most obsessive yet. My daughter and I started planning her birthday cake over six months ago. She decided she wanted a “lollipop birthday cake” and so I started scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram to scout out inspiration for such a cake. We looked at pictures together, and I bought no less than 13 kinds of sprinkles and candies for the cake decorations. I even bought her a brightly colored dress nearly five months ago to match the colorful candy birthday theme.
In addition to the actual birthday cake, she also requested “rainbow cupcakes” for her celebration at preschool, and so I researched rainbow cupcake techniques on YouTube in order to create these beauties for her.
My husband and I thought we were sticking to our faux-low-key vibe by “just” hiring a face painter and once again throwing the party at our local playground. But when my in-laws asked if they could also hire a professional princess for the party, we didn’t say no. We knew our daughter would just lose her mind with joy if her favorite princess, classic Cinderella, made an appearance at her party. Though I did start to worry if we were going a little overboard.
I planned out the cake meticulously for weeks, drawing sketches and discussing the plan with my fellow baker friends. I drove all over to procure the freshest Italian bread, hand-made mozzarella, and local Jersey tomatoes for the sandwiches. I carefully designed the color scheme of turquoise, royal blue, and pink. I even found the perfect lollipop birthday candles to top her colorful cake.
I spent days before the party prepping the buttercream frosting and baking the six layers of her funfetti cake, and I spent most of the Saturday before assembling the cake while my husband occupied our daughter with playdates and errands.
The morning of the party, the first thing my daughter did was open her eyes and ask, “Mommy, can I see my lollipop birthday cake?” This was the moment I had been waiting for over the past six months. Thankfully she loved it, and she kept sneaking peeks of her beloved cake all morning, each time bringing a proud smile to my face.
But two other things happened the morning of her party. 1) The forecast called for 100% rain showers in the afternoon. 2) My daughter threw tantrum after tantrum, proving it was going to be a difficult day.
So we moved the party indoors, and started setting up the balloons, sangria, juice boxes, and some toys. Amidst set-up, our daughter once again decided it was tantrum time. But as guests started to arrive, she recovered and ran around with glee, showing everyone the balloons and snacks. When the face painter arrived, she couldn’t wait to transform herself into a butterfly. And when Cinderella made her entrance, my daughter was stunned–she just kept staring in disbelief that Cinderella had come to her party.
Pretty soon it was time for cake and candles and singing “Happy Birthday.” Her smile said everything, and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Shortly after the cake cutting she asked to go upstairs, and even while guests were eating and enjoying themselves, our tantrum-throwing toddler decided she was done. She settled on the couch with a bowl of sweet potato mac and cheese and snuggled with her aunt while I finished saying goodbye to guests and cleaning up.
It was a day of ups and downs, which in truth, is no different than any other day with a toddler. Hopefully next year we can keep it a little more low-key, but I’m not making any promises.