Last week, my sister-in-law called me to invite me to my nephew’s 4th birthday party…in September. I will probably receive a “save the date” email within two or three weeks, followed by a professionally printed invitation in mid-August. She loves throwing birthday parties for her kids – she starts planning the next one as soon as the confetti is cleared from the last. Each party is thematically designed with sets that rival an off-Broadway show. One year a Hawaiian Luau (complete with questionably sober hula dancer), another had a fairy-tale theme that included a castle with a moat, this year…superhero – she is constructing Gotham City out of boxes – and she does all this while working full time as a psychotherapist (confirmation that therapists are indeed a little crazy).

party planning


I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I haven’t had a “real” birthday party for my son in a few years. We have a family party and generally do something special with one or two friends (a sleepover, movie, dinner out), but after six or seven years of parties, I was kind of burnt out. The parties that I threw were nothing like the productions that my SIL throws. I am more of the rent-a-place-bring-a-cake variety, but it’s not the party that was overwhelming, it’s everything that goes along with it, such as…

The List: Unless you invite the entire class of twenty-something children, someone is going to get left out…resulting in some mad mommy wanting to know why little Johnny wasn’t included. Add to this various friend’s children, and relatives, and your little birthday party has turned into stadium-size event. Most party venues can accommodate about 20 kids at a party – but for a fee you can add….CHA CHING!

The Cake: “Hello bakery, I need a wheat-free, gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, dairy-free cake, please.” Next to impossible. I don’t know why I bother, none of the kids eat the cake anyway. I should just serve everyone a glob of frosting with a candle and be done with it.

The Goody Bag: When did this become a “thing”? Really, does any kid need a bag full ‘o plastic crap? But if you don’t start handing them out, kids don’t seem to get it that the party is over.

The Pile O’ Presents: Yes, it’s fun to open gifts, I wholly acknowledge that, but 20+ gifts is borderline obscene. Which brings me to…

The Thank You Note: While I’m no Emily Post, I do think it’s essential to send a handwritten note thanking someone for attending your party and bringing you a gift – after all, they took time out of their busy life to think of an appropriate gift, purchase it, and wrap it, and attend your party. But getting a 10 year old to sit still long enough to write 20 notes is not an easy task. At one point, before he was capable of composing and writing a note, we used the fill-in-the-blank thank you notes, but he’s on his own now.

This year, my son has requested a party, and since he hasn’t had a bash with his friends for a few years, I’m inclined to say yes. Although his birthday isn’t until December(!!), he’s already started thinking about what he wants to do and the friends he’d like to invite – I think he and his aunt share the party-planning gene.

What do you think about birthday parties – a lot of fun or out of control?


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