Friday, January 22, 2010

Feeling the pressure to party

After getting past the commercial craziness that marks the Christmas season, I figured January would be a saner month. No such luck. So far, we’ve had two birthday parties for other kids to attend, and this weekend we are marking my son’s “25th” (month), as his birthday is just before the holidays.

For his “real” birthday, we celebrated simply. Instead of a huge celebration, the four of us munched on red velvet cupcakes (of which I bought a four-pack from the store; no sense having two dozen of them at home) and opened a small gift from his sister and presents from a grandparent.

But I got the pressure to party. His other grandparents and his godparents were wondering when the “big” celebration is, and I finally conceded and scheduled a small affair this weekend.

When I say small, I mean it. He’s two. He’s getting a cake and playing with friends.

There’s no meal involved – though I love to cook. There’s no goodie bags for guests. There’s no Thomas the Train dishware or cups.

Heck, his present – a personalized ABC photo album like I made his sister – hasn’t even been started yet, though I think I’ve figured out what will go for each letter of the alphabet.

Nope. It’s just a sugared-up kid or four and a few presents, and God willing, some space for them to run around.

I’m wondering when parties became the big affairs that they were. Maybe my family just kept it simpler. I don’t recall any large celebrations when I was young, and only a few birthdays with friends stand out in my rusty memory.

But today, it’s an ordeal. And I am not just talking about “My Sweet 16” and other birthday blow-out-type expectations. Five-year-olds are renting out entire gymnasiums to celebrate. Even lower-key celebrations with our neighbors require the preparation of entire meals, scrambling for sets of tables and chairs and, frankly, a lot of stress. Either way, it amounts to cranky parents and pressure on the kids to have the most memorable, happiest day ever.

So this weekend, pardon our simplicity with our l0w-key affair. It’s not that we’re trying to be cheap. Or bad hosts. It’s just there’s a time to go big, and there’s a time to just be with one another and enjoying – not orchestrating - the moment.

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