I remember when I started in the qualifying round of the mommy Olympics 14 years ago- my oldest started kindergarten and being very young - 22 at the time- I felt the need to out bake, out craft, out plan all those other women who looked down their noses at the young unwed mom. Living in a small town, birthday party venues were limited to the bowling alley,(too smoky) skating rink (too expensive) and pool (too crowded). And since my son's birthday is on New Years Eve- all of those were pretty much out of contention. So I improvised with what I thought were perfectly acceptable "house parties" with classic games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey and spooky stories told by flashlight. The all important goody bags were simple affairs with some stickers and a piece of candy (or two or three..who's counting?) As he got older- we did the quintessential Chucke Cheese party, bowling party and sleep over party- but all were low key and done on the cheap- including goody bags! Now at 19 my oldest has self-esteem to spare and is an amazing artist and all around good kid- birthday parties that cost more than my mortgage didn't do that!
Enter Spawn #2- a girl! Frilly, pink, bows and Barbie- I lost my mind! Birthday parties starting at 2 years old- Blues Clues theme- Happy Meals for all! Goody Bags in the $10 range! A bounce house, in the park! And the adoration in my child's eyes as she looked at the lavishness of what I had done- oh wait- scratch that- the tears because she was scared of the bounce house- the wind that blew everything around and the fickle fancies of a 2 year old girl who was more interested in the goody bags the other children got than her own presents. Skip to 4 years old- the Chucke Cheese party..the noise, the tokens, the kids running amok, the birthday child who was also scared of Chucke Cheese and did not want to come sit down for cake, singing and presents. *SIGH*
The list goes on- backwards party, no presents book donation party, skating party, luau themed party (oh that was fun- I think I still have scars from the hot glue used to put together grass skirts- swimming/slumber party, jewelry making party (the most expensive and least enjoyed) and the money shelled out to out-do the last party she went to- including one where instead of goody bags- the kids all got Gift Cards to the bookstore (in hindsight not a BAD idea- I just went overboard on the amount)
Enter third child- a quirky boy diagnosed with Autism- not many friends to speak of and very sensitive to lights, sound and crowds. First party- 5 years old. Gymnastics! With a pirate theme- goody bags were an eye patch, head scarf and some candy- in neat little pirate treasure chests- a scavenger hunt to find them and only 3 kids showed up. Lst year it was Bouncing off the Walls- a HUGE success- but again- very expensive. ($8 goody bags for 8 kids..yeah..do the math!)It was fun- but with this child- I have decided to go the route of the every other year party- a great suggestion from a friend- he is perfectly happy with cake, presents and family to celebrate- and it is much easier on the budget!
The middle daughter has her sights set on a party this year with an Alice in Wonderland theme- she wants an "Un-Birthday" Tea Party- she is making the invites and I will facilitate. What sort of expensive ass goody bags will 12-13 year old girls expect? I really am not worried about it anymore...my daughter is a beautiful, talented, happy friendly kid who has lots friends and isn't worried someone might not like her because we had a "house" party with No DJ, or catered lunch.
I have let go the notion that some other mom will talk about me badly because I didn't spend 1000's of dollars on a lavish party the kids won't even remember next year. I am done trying to out-do anyone else. I want the kids to have fun, be happy and that is all. When the kids are passed out from too much cake and shenanigans,guess where I will be? You guessed it- sitting down with a glass of wine congratulating myself on winning another round in the Mommy Olympics.