Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Birthday Party Madness, Part II

Last night, my best friend, Nina, called me on her way home from work. She's a teacher, a mother of 3, a graduate student, and her husband works out of town 4 days a week. She's ANYTHING but a slacker, but she's the epitome of Slacker Mom - and, in fact, the inspiration behind my Super Mom to Slacker Mom transformation. She makes room for what's important and knows how to weed out what's not, and we all - her kids, husband, students, professors, neighbors and friends - get the best parts of her. She knows what it means to prioritize. Now, it may sound like I'm going off on a tangent, but there's a point - she read my latest post and called with an "I can do you one better" story of her own. Not to beat a dead horse, but I cannot resist relating this story that drives home my ooint.

Nina's girls were once invited to a birthday party for a friend named Abby. (Names have been changed for privacy; otherwise all my friends would stop talking to me in case I used them as material for the blog.) It was Abby's First Birthday (capitals intended), a joyous occasion for any parent. But where most of us have the grandparents over for cake, Abby's mom hired a Vegas-quality magician, a professional artist to paint faces (no, not a professional face painter; a professional ARTIST!), and had a real, old-fashioned hot dog cart. There were nearly 100 guests. I could go on, but you get the point.

But this is what concerns me: is this what is expected of me for a CHILD'S party? I'm exhausted just thinking about it, and my kids' birthdays are months away. I thought it was really cool when I threw a Hannah Montana karaoke "Half-Sleepover" a few years ago. I thought the Garden Party where we painted pots and planted impatiens was awesome. I loved the Lilo and Stitch Luau so much that we did it two years in a row. With the same guests! And the same decorations!

Don't get me wrong - if you have the means and the desire to throw the Mack Daddy of all parties, knock yourself out. If it makes you happy, and you can afford it, go ahead and hire the ponies and clowns and jugglers and fire eaters. What bothers me is that this is becoming the norm instead of the exception to the rule. What bothers me is that some people feel they have to spend money - and time - they don't have in order to keep up with classmates and neighbors. Will my kids be ostracized if they don't have professional dancers at their next ballet-themed party? Do I need to invite every single child my kids know in case someone's feelings get hurt? (Which is ridiculous. Do I cry when two of my friends have lunch and don't invite me?)

I don't think so. One of the very best parties my kids ever went to was in a church basement, with Domino's pizza, crafts, and a cake from the grocery store. They had the BEST time, and I guarantee this mom didn't stress over her child's party. She was relaxed and able to truly enjoy her daughter's big day. The kids had fun running around and playing, and the moms enjoyed each others' company. Appropriate, fun, easy - the perfect kids' party.

Slacker Mom Says...I'm jumping off the bandwagon. No more "keeping up with the Joneses" for me. I'm setting a budget, limiting the guest list to their closest friends, and serving up some old-fashioned fun and games. Goodie bags with stuff you'll use, a pinata, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and Musical Chairs. It's a birthday party, not a wedding reception.

Or I might do what Nina does: no parties, but we can go to Disney for the day.

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