Perhaps our kids will think us cruel some day for it, but we have yet to throw our kids an actual birthday party (well, other than Milo’s third birthday, where we invited some neighbors over and threw the kids in the back yard with some cupcakes). Part of it has to do with the fact that their birthdays are so close together, all three over the span of one month (and Andrew’s is tucked in there too). But more of it has to do with the uneasiness I feel when we attend those over-the-top, professional-level themed parties with all the bells and whistles: the bounce houses, the huge table of presents, the professional performers (!), the goodie bags the kids have come to expect at every party (wait, you mean the party isn’t enough? You have to give all of your guests presents too?). I start to wonder, is anything going to be special to these kids anymore?
This isn’t meant to bash you if you are a big party person. If you spend months planning your one-year-old’s birthday and have a color theme and matching outfits, etc. If that’s how you roll, great!
But… I guess we are choosing to opt out. We’ve chosen not to compete in these party games. It’s not that hard to explain to our kids (yet) why they can’t have the $300 party at SkyZone and sit in the king’s chair while opening 30 presents. They are, for now, just happy to be at a party, any party. This is not all to say that we don’t want them to feel special on their special day. So as soon as they are old enough to request something (we’ve found it to be the third birthday around here), they can request it. We tell them they can choose a special place they’d like to go, or an experience they’d like to have, and they can bring one friend. Then later that night, we blow out candles and eat cake as a family, and watch the special kid open his (two or three small) presents. It ends up being very special, because they get some really good quality time with a friend of their choosing, and we all end up having a blast, without the consumerism culture I’d rather not instill in my kids.
This year, Milo chose Eliza to go to the City Museum with him. He had started off with another friend in mind, but as the days passed, he came to me with this: “Mama, I think I would rather take Eliza.” I was pleased, but still curious, so I asked why. “Because she is really strong and a really good climber. Plus, she’ll already be there for circus class!”
I couldn’t have planned it better myself. So on the Saturday after Milo’s 6th birthday, I took Milo and Eliza to their circus class and Eliza’s mama let us use their membership card so we could stay after and explore the museum. And let me tell you, explore we did! I had so much fun with those two, I can’t even tell you! They are at such a great age right now: independent and physically agile, yet still completely amazed by the world around them. They are innocent and have HUGE imaginations, and magical thinking and all that good wonderful stuff we adults are missing from our minds. But watching them and exploring with them, I felt like a kid too. A big kid who couldn’t fit into all the tiny spaces they could, but a kid nonetheless.
At one point, Milo got separated from us, and before I was even worried, my cell phone rang. It was a City Museum employee who said that she had Milo. He had found an employee, told her he was lost, then told her my full name and phone number. How cool is that?! Though… I’m pretty sure he told her our address too. We’re working on the basics here!
But I do think that Milo chose exactly the right friend to bring along. They were well-matched in energy, ability, and interest, and frankly I could sit down and relax a bit while they literally ran back and forth and slid down over and over again in one area.
We rounded off the trip with some snow cones and a lot of laughter. Love these goofballs!