Seven years ago, my firstborn was turning one. I called up his grandparents and aunts and uncles, and they all came over for cake.
First birthday, DONE.
We did something similar for his second birthday, and then his third rolled around and I felt it was time to throw him a “real” party. So I did.
And, not to brag or anything, but it was basically Pinterest-worthy. We had a “Super Why” theme, I made alphabet cupcakes, did activities, and even made capes for all the kids. The following year we did a “Cars” theme with a hot wheels race track in the backyard, then a “Seahawks” party – complete with a DIY goal post my husband had constructed so the kids could try and kick field goals, and then a “Pizza & Big Hero 6” movie party at our house with like 15 kindergarteners and their parents in our 1000 square foot home (while we were in the midst of selling it, no less).
Meanwhile, our daughter was born and basically lost the birthday lottery, arriving the day after Christmas. We followed suit for her first two birthdays with low-key family gatherings, and then her third birthday rolled around and it was time to plan her first “real” party.
But I just couldn’t. With the craziness of the holidays, how could I 1) plan a party, and 2) ask people to find the time to come to it?
So an idea was born to scale back the traditional party and find ways to make her birthday feel special enough that she wouldn’t even miss it. On the morning of her birthday I took her out for her very first mani-pedi. In the afternoon we had a “party,” but basically it was an invitation for two of her friends to come over, wear princess dresses, watch Frozen, and eat cake.
We didn’t even end up putting on the movie, so basically it was just a playdate with cake.
Fast forward a couple months to my son’s next birthday; I started wondering if I could replicate the no-party strategy and get away with it. So we gave Conlan a choice – he could either have all of his friends over to our house for a traditional party, or he could choose three friends to take to a movie in the theater followed by lunch at the food court.
To my delight, he chose Option #2.
Then when Christmas rolled around again, I didn’t even bother to invite any friends to help Brynna celebrate her fourth birthday. We spent the day as a family, went to a movie, went out to lunch, and she picked out a special cupcake. For the first time in four years I didn’t have to spend Christmas night making a birthday cake.
And while I waited…and waited and waited…for her to ask about a birthday party or birthday cake, she never did.
She had fun and felt celebrated.
And this week, as my son turns eight, I won’t be finishing up with the last of the party-planning details. Because there won’t be one. He thought it was so cool last year that he’s opted to take two friends to a movie again instead.
You guys. There’s no one way to do parenting. Don’t let Pinterest or pressure guilt you into throwing a big party if you don’t have to. I know some moms absolutely love the creativity and organization that goes into a fancy birthday party.
But that’s just not me, and I’ve discovered that – given the choice – my kids don’t seem to care whether or not they have a party, as long as we do something special and attach the label of “birthday” to it. So instead we put up birthday streamers in their doorways, let them choose their birthday dinner, tell them why we find them so special, and quietly exchange gifts as a family. Maybe there’s cake involved.
Or maybe we just run to Dairy Queen for blizzards.
It’s whatever our kids choose (it’s still their birthday, after all) – and they’ve surprised us by being satisfied with much more simple celebrations than we might have otherwise thought.
It was never in the master plan to avoid birthday parties, but it just sort of…happened. And, as it turns out, everyone in our household seems to be completely happy with it. So for as long as I can, I will continue to find fun ways to make my kids feel special on their birthday WITHOUT the work and stress of a party.
Other “Non-Party” Ideas:
- Take a friend to a fun, special activity like Elevated Sportz
- Go bowling as a family and stop for doughnuts on the way home
- Take your little girl for a mani-pedi
- Take a family trip to someplace you don’t usually go – like Great Wolf Lodge or rent a cabin
- Treat a friend to the zoo or Children’s Museum
- Let your kid pick the restaurant and go out to dinner
- Have one friend over for a sleepover, or for pizza & a movie