I’ll be the first to admit that I threw my son an over the top, totally Pinterest expired, 1st birthday “paw-ty” (it was puppy dog themed). I spent way too much time and money planning and executing it for something the child doesn’t remember at all. It was my sad attempt to make up for the fact that his Daddy was deployed for his first birthday.
Fast forward one year and we had just moved before my son’s 2nd birthday. So, although Daddy was here, we had no friends and therefore didn’t have your typical “party”. My mom, sister and brother in law were here as well as my husband and I. We had cake, the birthday boy opened a pretty good amount of presents and then a few days later we went on the Polar Express train. It was low key and sweet but not because I wanted it that way, because it was the only option with no friends. Cue the society standard induced mom guilt.
Fast forward to his 3rd birthday – we had to cancel his gymnastics gym party because he was sick. The day the party was planned for I threw my sick miserable kids in the car and drove 7 hours to my parents house in Pennsylvania. His daddy was deployed again and I felt awful he wasn’t getting a party, again. But I also knew I couldn’t be the jerk that gets all the other kids sick just because I wanted my kid to have the party society tells us their supposed to have each ear. The day of his actual birthday, I spent the entire day in a Greensburg, PA emergency room with the 9 month old baby who had a UTI. I then got trapped in a blizzard and couldn’t get back to my parents. My dad had to come rescue us and I managed to miss almost all of the birthday boys big day AND because it’s near Christmas, all I got him was a lousy Christmas tree cake. He didn’t seem to mind.
Fast forward to now: big guy just turned 4 yesterday! I had a party planned but in my new minimal point of view it was going to be laid back and easy. Just a couple friends, minimal, premade decor and it would be at our house. No activities planned, just simple. Well, wouldn’t you know I wake up one morning and notice that 4/5 families invited couldn’t come. I was so heartbroken. “He’s never had a party he could remember!!!” I sobbed to my husband on the phone. (That poor guy, my twin pregnancy hormones are INSANE.) We cancelled the whole thing and it’s kind of a good thing because both my kids were diagnosed with strep the day we were supposed to have the party.
I was still determine to make it a special day so we ordered the smallest cake we could, got pancake mix for breakfast and some small Paw Patrol decorations on the cheap from Walmart.
This little boy woke up to funfetti pancakes, his Daddy took the day off work to hang out with him. He opened present #1 from his GiGi (my mom) – a Paw Patrol lookout he’s been asking for for over 6 months. He was over the moon! He and little bit (our 21 month old) played with it all day! Around noon my sister FaceTimed him and he opened his present from her – a 4 Pack super hero cape and mask kit. They ran around in those costumes ALL day! We ate Dino chicken nuggets for lunch – per his request. It was awesome.
Because everyone in our house was sick, we’ve been through a 5 day lake effect snow blizzard and our closest friends here have had sick kids – I invited them over with the “pending everyone is healthy and it’s not a snow-pocalypse” conditional agreement. Well they ended up being able to make it! So LJs little favorite bud P and his family came over. We had cheap Lil Caesars pizza, our small paw patrol cake from Walmart and the kids played. We also opened the present our awesome friends got him and the present we and his other grandparents got him.
And it taught me a lot.
It taught me that his smile will be just as big and joy just as radiant with a $400 party or a $50 dinner with cake. But with the latter, I am not stressed and I actually get to witness his joy.
He wasn’t overwhelmed and was able to enjoy his whole day instead of looking forward to just a party.
There is nothing wrong with just a family party or just a family outing for a birthday – sometimes those make the best days. He still remembers the Polar Express train from his 2nd birthday and his last minute Christmas tree cake from his 3rd.
So with this I’m taking away that the memory is more important than the event. The company is more important than the Theme. The joy is more important than the hype. And I’m taking this lesson into every holiday and event from here on out!