(photo by Lauren Ristow- we did a cake smash for Charlie's first birthday)
When Henry turned one, I threw a ridiculous party that almost makes me cringe a tiny bit now. Who on earth was that party for? Certainly not Henry, who would have been happy sitting in the middle of a pile of wrapping paper throwing it around. But I planned and planned into all hours of the night for weeks (maybe months), cutting out little toppers to adorn the tops of 75 bakery-made, special order cupcakes stacked on white cake stands I bought just for the occasion. I stuffed goodies bags and sewed together back drops, created banners and organized photo collages for the walls. I went all out. And besides our house being packed with all of the people we love, there to celebrate our sweet Henry turning one, I remember just feeling very stressed out. Yes, it was so special, and I know we all had a great time, but behind it all, I felt a weird self-imposed pressure. I had to get the perfect photo, I had to have Henry's cake smash go just as planned, had to, had to...my had-to list was a mile long.
After the party Hank and I stood in our dining room, plates with half eaten cupcakes on the table, a lone streamer hanging off the ceiling...and let out a huge sigh. Right then and there I made the promise to myself- "never again." But like most things, it sometimes takes a few times to really make the change. As the years went on, parties simplified. Henry's 2nd birthday was a slightly less extravagant (this was my relapse) but by the third we were at a bowling alley with their house-made pizza and a Costco cake. Then Charlie came along, and we had a small but sweet 1st birthday, with lots of special touches, but nothing that felt over the top. For Henry's last birthday we did a gymnastics party- no clean up, all FUN- and even requested that people brought no presents, and instead brought a gift for Henry to donate to Toys-for-Tots. It was the best party to date.
So Charlie's 3rd birthday is next in just a few weeks, and just this morning he requested Peter Piper Pizza. It's funny (and a little sad) to me to think that when I first became a parent I would have never gone for that...but now- yes, yes, yes! No clean-up, food included, and the focus solely on fun for the kids? Sign us up.
And this isn't to say I don't love extravagant, big parties and attending them. In fact, every year I kind of have to push down the urge to throw another one! But for me, part of getting older has been getting to know myself better, and through that I've learned what works for me. A huge theme for me in my 30s has been relaxing- letting go of my perfectionist tendencies (or trying to, at least), and focusing on fun over everything, especially when the kids are involved. So over the years I've simplified with purpose. And if the boys one day ask me for 75 cupcakes with personalized cupcake toppers and matching handmade birthday hats for everyone, you can bet I'll do it. But in the meantime, if birthday fun for them means a plastic cup full of gold tokens, a pizza sliced into 20 pieces, and three prizes won with 800 tickets at the end...that's a huge YES for me.