Back to Basics
If the eight year-old me could attend one of today's average birthday parties, it would blow my mind. Today's celebrations...the overly orchestrated and elaborate events with their back-to-back scheduled activities, professional entertainment and trucked in hardware like bouncy houses, trampolines, and ponies. Then there's the complete alteration of the backyard or rented hall with an explosion of coordinated decorations (and I'm not kidding, I've been to one done by a hired professional party planner; it was for a ONE YEAR-OLD).
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand the party favors. Like the cost of your attendance at a wedding, you have to take the party favors into consideration when selecting your gift for the birthday kid; you don't want to be the chump that walks leaving the host in the red.
Now, to me, a homemade cake always meant love (it's the secret ingredient...ssshhhhh). But to many it seems that a homemade cake signals that the parents were too cheap to spend the big bucks on a three-tiered cake with their little darlings images prancing around with their fave Sprout character on each level. Or something like that.
I understand it's pretty easy as a parent to adopt that model to one extent or another..you want to create a wonderful birthday memory for your kids. But the bar keeps getting raised with each successive party the kids attend, "Mom, Jackson had a climbing wall at his party! It was so COOL! Can we get one for my party?!?!?!"
I haven't totally bought into that whole world, but I have succumbed a bit in the past. I still make my cakes, but now I get all elaborate with them. I plan activities and decorate, usually with a theme of some sort. Or I rent some time at a gymnastics center and let them handle it all.
So it was so refreshing the other day to get a call from a friend who confessed to me that she was considering a totally non-conventional recognition of her son's ninth birthday party. No bouncy house, no caterers, no entertainment, no organized activities...just a few friends over to play.
It was awesome. Six boys hanging out, shooting hoops, playing with water guns, throwing balls, kicking a soccer ball, doing whatever they wanted for a few hours after school. There was pizza to eat, smores instead of a cake, bottles of water and juice boxes in a tub that the kids grabbed whenever.
I was there helping my friend manage the chaos, and towards the end of the party I overheard the birthday boy exclaim, "Mom, this is the best birthday party EVER!"
I know what I am doing for my kid's next party.