I’m an earnest birthday party planning mom.
Nowadays, are you allowed not to be?
It’s not been my kiddos that have expected me to outdo myself each year. And it’s certainly not been my husband. He’d keep it super simple and just give a gift, a smile and let them choose supper. I’m the ying to his yang.
Martha Stewart-ize the day, and I’m halfway there.
I have in recent years learned to significantly temper my overextending efforts.
You’d think Pinterest wouldn’t help. What with the collection of EVERYONE’S Martha Stewart-perfect party ideas all in one place. But it has becomes my go-to for birthday planning ideas. And I simply remind myself that implementing a few ideas, instead of all the ideas, will not make the party happier.
A happy party is simple: happy participants.
1. Plan a theme. What is your kiddo interested in? Go with that.
Being irregularly exposed to the dominant marketing world, not living near a Toys R Us, not having television service and not sending the kids to school, I’m less familiar with the latest child marketing barrage–like Barbie videos (they’re still doing those right?) If my kiddo prefers automatic helicopters instead of the latest Lego movie, his birthday party theme will be helicopters.
Let them design the day, if you have that freedom. We make these days annual holidays. No studies, no routine, no housecleaning. The birthday kiddo chooses the breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a family activity together. One day out of the year I can eat bacon and fruit loops for breakfast (okay, I can eat the bacon). To my surprise, my eldest wanted Tim Horton’s chili and Timbits (we don’t have it in our town).
2. Simple activities can be just as fun as expensive activities. At least for your kiddo. Do the thing that your kid loves. Not what you think would make it to reality television. That IS enough.
You might think that a weekend away heli-skiing would be the most memorable twelfth birthday event. And if it’s in your means, do so. On the other hand, have you considered an Amazing Race? A mall treasure hunt? A triathalon at the local rec center?
All you need is a handful of their favourite friends, a venue, a plan and a handful of cutely decorated cupcakes. You’re good to go. And the party participants are happy.
One of the activities we chose for our middle daughter’s birthday was an Amazing Birthday Race at the mall. These kids had so much fun. The look on their faces as they zoomed around that shopping mall, and zoom they did–so. much. fun. Where I thought I could sit back and relax with my cappuccino, I realized that the mall was too busy for racing kiddos searching for a cold old French fry at the Food Court.
Equipped with an iPod, they searched for…a cold French fry (yeah, I know, it’s gross, but it’s hilarious), an old receipt, put your hand on an ATM (probably also gross), introduce yourself to someone and tell them it’s Madelyn’s 12th birthday, take a picture of your favourite ice cream, buy a loaf of bread (it was on my grocery list), take a picture of your favourite headband, take a picture of a clearance sign, put a shopping cart away (without going outside the mall), put away three pieces of garbage.
Wow, were they fast. I had to improvise and write an impromptu second list–which naturally included more daring feats like introducing yourself to a stranger in French, singing happy birthday choir-style, opening and closing mall doors for customers.
Easy fun. Minimal cost.
This particularly rainy evening didn’t allow firepit use. So we pulled out the grill in the carport and loaded it with briquettes. Through the window I watched my teenaged daughter start a Scout-worthy fire, load it with scrunched newspaper and see her friend throw three logs on the fire. This was when I realized teenagers still require fire supervision. One does not throw logs into a grill inside the carport unless one wants to understand the fine details of one’s house insurance coverage.
3. Focus on memories. Focus on time spent individually with that child.
1. Record an interview of their favourites every year.
2. Plan a photography session.
3. Scrapbook their year in two pages.
4. Write them a letter.
5. Sit them on your lap and tell them you love them.
6. We read this book every birthday…the kids have it memorized. A story to remind us that we want to enjoy this special day just once a year.
7. I’ve taken to drawing tiny posters of quotes that I want to share with my child at this point in their lives…
“We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same”. Anne Frank
“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn’t stop you from having your own opinions”. Anne Frank
“There’s a life, that I am meant to lead, a life like nothing I have known, I can feel it and it’s far from here, I’ve got to find it on my own”. Little Women musical
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship”. Little Women
“What if I fall? Oh, but darling, what if you fly?” e.h.
What do you do to celebrate your kiddos’ birthdays?
PS You can follow me on my Birthday board on Pinterest at @twainausten