There is so much to do before the big day. What date works best for everyone? What should the invitations look like? Who should be on the guest list? What should we gift to party-goers for attending? What food should be served? Cupcakes or cake? What type of decorations? Burlap? Bubbles? If the title of this post didn’t give it away, you’d probably be thinking this was going to be all about planning your wedding day. Lately I’m feeling like the only thing setting apart the planning process of a child’s birthday and a walk down the aisle, is a bounce house. Actually, it’s been awhile since I got married, or attended a wedding – that might even be a thing now. “Ladies and gentlemen, their first bounce as husband and wife!” Since when did planning a child’s birthday party become such an event?
Birthday party anxiety gets the best of me. I’ll admit it. I can think of several reasons why this might be the case:
- I’ve never been one to want a rager for my own birthday, so maybe this same conservative feeling is being passed down to my kids.
- I could win a Guinness World Record for being the worst decision maker in all of the land.
- The natural fear of rejection starts early, as well as my need to protect my child’s feelings
- I get nervous hosting large (okay, even remotely quaint) crowds
- I worry that guests won’t get along or have things to talk about
- There won’t be enough food
- People won’t have fun
- I can’t compete with _____
- I don’t want to deal with other people’s children (oh, like you weren’t thinking it)
- I’m budget conscious and when my child is really young, they won’t remember anyway
- There are more to this list, but I can’t decide on them right now (see #2 above)
Hey, I’ll be one of the first people to tell you that your child’s birthday is something pretty darn special (read more about my story here). As with all of our birthdays, we celebrate the milestones that have happened and the excitement of what’s to come. ‘Celebrate’ is the key word here.
A celebration can look so many different ways. It doesn’t always have to mean a huge shindig with pony rides, ferris wheels and a special appearance by Penn & Teller. A celebration can also be an intimate gathering with a few close friends. Or even a party for one. I don’t know about you, but when my two youngest children go down for naps at the same time and my chai latte is still hot by the time my butt hits the couch, it’s something worth celebrating.
My children are toddlers right now and I know the birthday pressure will only increase with age. School isn’t a factor just yet, so the social circle is a little smaller (I’m enjoying it while I can). There will be plenty of time for ferris wheels. For now, I’m perfectly content with brainwashing them into believing that I will always be their best friend and I’m all they’ll ever need.
I’m here to reassure you that however you choose to celebrate, it’s going to be perfect for your little guest of honor. They are going to feel loved and the pictures you look back on will have lots of smiles (and not just because you deleted the frowny ones – stay with me).
Here are some tips for getting through birthday anxiety, staying budget conscious and still having tons of fun:
Dollar Store – one place that can have it all…streamers, balloons, tablecloths, plates, cups, utensils, party favors, candy
Amazon.com Wish List – to ensure that family members don’t all buy the same thing, you can create a wish list for your child. This is great to have updated all year round so that you can defer to it for any upcoming holiday gift ideas. If things are purchased, they’re removed, so you can hopefully avoid managing returns of duplicate items.
College Savings Plan Donations – When toys are in excess already and family insists on getting the birthday boy/girl something, you can ask for college savings plan donations. Minimum contributions can be as low as $25. It’s never to early to teach your kids the satisfaction of compounding interest and return on investment. It’s actually a present for both you and your child.
Birthday donuts/favorite meal – the way to most people’s heart, am I right? I’d start everyday with a deep-fried sprinkle cake, if I still had the waistline of a toddler.
One Stop Shop – find a party location that is all-inclusive, like Chuck E. Cheese (neutral territory, with pizza and games included – best part, no clean-up!)
Make Your Own Dessert – make cupcakes at home and have a decorating contest. Who needs an expensive cake when you get to make your own creation?! Plus there’s no pressure for perfection, when creativity is key. Maybe the birthday boy/girl isn’t a big cake fan. Twist my arm for ice cream sundaes.
Let People Help – if people/family want to help, let them. It lets everyone be a part of the special day. It allows them to celebrate how they want and (hopefully) eases your anxiety by dispersing the party planning. But stick to your vision and what makes you feel comfortable. Dunk tank? Nope – plates and napkins, please. It’s give and take. A little something to also keep in mind – if the birthday boy/girl isn’t going to remember anyway, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to try to keep control over everything.
Adult Beverages – I don’t really think this requires any additional commentary, right?
It doesn’t matter if you’re bouncing, sitting, eating, laughing, watching magic or playing games, we celebrate.
Happy Birthday little ones!