This weekend my son had a party for his 8th birthday - his first birthday party in four years. Don’t think it was from lack of trying on my part. From the time he was a baby, I was raring to go with the parties. We had a Thomas the Train party when he was three where the kids decorated their own “caboose” cakes. When he was four, we had a Lightening McQueen party where they played Pin the Teeth on the Mater (with checkered flag blind folds) and we served a homemade Lightning McQueen cake. So when he was turning five, I asked him what theme he wanted that year. His reply: “I don’t want a party.”
Now I know for many of you mothers (especially the ones with several children) this might be music to your ears. But for someone like me who lives for these events for my only child, it was a blow. To see if he wanted to change his mind, I gently prodded him a few times over the following eight weeks before his big day. (Ok, maybe hounded him is a more accurate description.) I even threw out exciting ideas about doing a T-Rex theme or a Science Lab party. He wasn’t going for it. He’s never been a shy kid and he loves attention, so what could be the problem?
Perhaps it was his mother’s naiveté in thinking people still threw house parties like my generation had when we were kids. Perhaps it was the snowballing excitement (read: anxiety) leading up to the party, ending in one too many shopping trips in my zeal for wringing out every last inch of the birthday theme. (In my defense, how could we have a Cars party without miniature trophies that looked like the Piston Cup?)
By all accounts, he had a great time at that party. I was the one who spent the following several hours (and days) wiping up hidden fingerprints of red frosting. Still, the following March I was begging for another party, while he wanted to do something fun with just mom and dad.
As he entered kindergarten and every year since, other birthday party invitations began rolling in monthly. I was ignorant to the custom of inviting the entire class once your child enters school. And with upwards of 20 kids to contend with, house parties are out. Parents rent out bounce rooms, gymnasiums, and retail stores. Forget little goody bags; at these parties kids get to build their very own bear to take home. My little Science Lab party in our family room would’ve gone over like a lead balloon. It was then I realized my son had helped me dodge a bullet by not wanting birthday parties. Or maybe he was the one who dodged it, seeing as how I had already exhibited the early signs of birthday party hysteria when he was a toddler.
So for his last three birthdays, with gusto I have puff painted a special birthday shirt, decorated the house, and made an elaborate scavenger hunt for him to find his birthday gifts. We have happily taken him to Chuck E. Cheese or the zoo or whatever favorite restaurant he requests. And even though it’s just the three of us, we still make an awesome cake of his choosing.
This year when he finally asked for a party again, I was determined to temper my enthusiasm with reality. But we had it at the pool…just in case I decided to go overboard.