Birthdays in our home have been known as the event. Each year, the kids choose a theme, and I brainstorm crazy ways for the kids to celebrate. It's always within our small budget, and it's creative, and it's a house filled with happy kids.
We've done rock star parties, luaus, dance parties, Fancy Nancy parties, even a Jedi training party for the magical sixth birthday.
Home birthday parties in our family evolved to the point that our neighbor friend asks her mom what she should wear each year. Seriously.
But this year...was different.
We had planned a sleepover for next month. My daughter wanted a Harry Potter theme. Down to broom races in the backyard (her idea). And I had just a bit of fun researching Harry Potter-themed recipes online.
Then the unthinkable happened. We had two injuries within three days - my husband in a sling and my daughter on crutches. My house was already not party-ready by any estimation. And my daughter was feeling pretty puny from her knee sprain. Since our traditional summer fun was out the window, why not bite the bullet and have a party outside the home?
I wound up renting a room at the local frozen yogurt shop. For $50, I had yogurt and toppings for the group, a room to ourselves for nearly two hours, and balloons. We kept the event simple - played one of her favorite CDs, brought out her jewelry making supplies, nail polish and face paint, and let the girls have their fun.
In other words, in my mind, I cheated on my daughter's birthday party. I caved in. I went corporate instead of homemade.
And you know what? No one was disappointed.
No one cared that it wasn't the event. Don't get me wrong, themed parties are fun, but they are a lot of work. Sometimes, kids just want to get together though and be kids. They giggled when they played spin the bottle with nail polish. They made jewelry and talked with each other. And strangers became friends by the end of the afternoon.
Kids just want to have their time, not want everything planned and packaged for them. Like the year we had my son's party on a obscenely warm December day, and instead of playing the planned stuff, they had an impromptu soccer game in the backyard.
While planning activities is fun, you do have the internal pressure to squeeze them in just because you planned and purchased the supplies. And as a parent, you have to let that go, and simply enjoy the moment.
Will this change the landscape of how we handle birthdays in our home? Perhaps. I will never be a parent who shells out money for a party at Monkey Joe's, Incredible Pizza or the Children's Museum, but maybe, just maybe, I may be open to not having the party-ready house one afternoon and let someone else do the cleaning for me!