Party Planning Anxiety

by cecimadden

I keep mentioning that Rachel’s birthday is coming up.  Well, I have been obsessively thinking about her birthday party.  A girl only turns two once, right?

I’m not one for extravagance, but I still think a two year old’s birthday party should be worth remembering.  Even if Rachel will not remember her second birthday in years to come, it will still matter to her how she feels on that day.  Surprise, joy, gratitude, love.  Those feelings will matter very much to her, and they will be sentiments worth building traditions on.  It is a day that only happens once after all.

And I suppose that’s the point, right?  It is a special day, and the foundation for tradition.  Do you remember how you felt on your birthdays growing up?  I definitely do.   I would say all of my birthdays were short on fanfare, big on special.  I think my parents knew that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.  We always had our choice of what was for dinner and dessert, and we were always together: my parents, my sisters, and I.  Birth-days often morphed into birthday-weekends or even birthday-weeks, as there are always special treats to enjoy, justified by it being one’s birthday/weekend/week, right?  I remember only a handful of presents received on my birthdays growing up (although I know there were several), but I remember many a meal, many a cake (or pie!), and many a family gathering.   

…To tell you I feel no pressure to plan a great birthday party for Rachel would be a lie.  Partly because my birthday memories are so fond, but also because it seems the young child’s birthday party has become a bit of a status symbol of domestic competence, a badge of honor among parents and children alike.  I’m somewhat inclined to think: well, to each their own way, but spend a few minutes googling “toddler birthday party” and you’re bound to get overwhelmed.  The options, or dare I suggest, expectations, range from simple pool parties with Betty Crocker cake, to intracately decorated, themed affairs including goodie bags for guests and premium-priced, character-shaped cakes.  I think to myself, how do we dance delicately on that line between special and immodest, fun and self-indulgent?  And luckily, I don’t have to deal with the politics of who should be invited: all classmates and teammates v. close friends only; siblings, neighbors, new kids in town…I think my brain might explode…

My default, then, should be to stick with what I know.  I guess I should tell you that I’m pretty insecure when it comes to planning parties in general then.  I strive for thoughtful and effortless, not so much for entertainment or dramatic effect.  I’m very Sally Field in Mrs. Doubtfire in that way.  And frankly, my husband Jim is a little like Robin Williams with the petting zoo and the live DJ and the dancing on the couches, etc.  Not that this has to complicate matters…

New default- consider what Rachel would want most.  Ah-ha (why didn’t I/anyone on google think of this sooner)!  Everything comes full circle.  If we want Rachel to feel special on her birthday and have a really fun time, what would she absolutely want to have at her birthday party?

So we asked her.  And yes, an almost-two year old can state her preferences. I reminded her of the birthday parties she has been to and the few she has seen on tv and told her that we would be having a birthday party for her very soon.  She was super excited!

What do you want at your birthday party, I asked.  Do you want balloons? Yes. Do you want cake? Yes.  Do you want ice cream? Eh, I don’t know mom…

What else do you want at your birthday party?

She walked across the room and grabbed her Yo Gabba Gabba! DVD. 

Then Jim said, I could dress up as Brobee!

No, not the petting zoo! was my first thought.  And second, I am totally Sally Field.  Stop being Sally Field!  And third, ok, if we’re dressing up, I am not dressing up as Foofa.  Toodee has more spunk.  If anything, I’ll be Toodee.

So I think with some creativity we can work this out after all.  Rachel will be  really into it, I will not kill any fun, and Jim will not have to disguise himself as an English, soccer-playing nanny to make it all better.  I’d prefer it if there were no disguises at all, but we can meet halfway on this.  It is just one day after all.