My little girl just turned 4. And once more, I just had the joy and pain of making sure this one had her Bird and Butterfly party. It’s difficult not to get seized by the mommy competition for “best party ever.” I go through the dilemma every year. “Don’t lose the meaning in the celebration,” I tell myself. It’s tough not to keep up with the Mommy Joneses. My kids were gushing when they came home from the last party, filled to rapture with prizes and glitz. But keeping up with the Joneses can often get out of control. And really, who are we putting out a show for? The Mommy Joneses or the birthday girl?
And so every year, despite the competition, I have managed to evade party planners; wacky, witty, sometimes annoying party hosts; sumptuous gourmet catering; larger than life prizes; snow cone machines and chocolate fountains; make up, glitter and face painting; bouncing houses and (yes, I’ve seen them) carousels!
Growing up I still think I won “best party ever.” And yet what did my mommy give me? A birthday cake, musical chairs, handmade loot with Bazooka bubble gum, and all my friends gathering around the table for a birthday song. And oh, presents of course. I don’t miss the lavish party I never got. Nor will I ever yearn for live shows of eating fire and the party host that made us “bring him” daddy’s shoe. I would rather have daddy as host, helping me with my treasure hunt. And know what I remember the most? I remember my mom toiling days before my birthday, cutting out wrappers, making paper chains and hanging banners on strings. I remember my nanny making me cheese pimiento and egg sandwiches, and getting to lick spaghetti sauce off the wooden spoon. And I remember racing to sit on a chair or posing as a statue, the cassette player paused. We had tiny plastic toys and candy that hung on a bamboo; our piñata was a clay pot. It was simple. It was magical.
I won’t break the bank for my children’s parties. What will I teach them with over the top and lavish, and about getting your every whim and fancy? If there’s a flamboyant carousel for her first birthday party, what happens on her 3rd, give her a pony? Take her to Paris on her 7th? This mommy makes her invitation by hand, will cook spaghetti (nana does. And I order food too, this mommy just can’t cook) and will always have egg and cheese pimiento sandwiches on the table. I’ve learned variations of good ole musical chairs and pin the tail. I am the wacky, witty and maybe annoying party host, and I still cut, string, sew and glue decors (with a little help from nana and friends.) Yes, and we can do themes. Bugs, butterflies, princesses, fairies, a farm, China, and even Mexico. And friends and family have honored us too, being puppets, the storyteller, even the mascot. I like celebrating BIRTH days, just that. That doesn’t take much off my wallet, just a whole lot of backbreaking love. And I don’t think my children mind the least bit. (Well, maybe they just don’t tell me.) But I see it in their equally enraptured eyes, glitzy prizes or not. Their faces still light up as I hang an imperfect banner I had painted and cut out. And I still see big toothy grins after the song has been sung and the candle puffed out. And maybe one day, they will see my yearly labor of love, as I make a fool of myself in their games, and glue-stick my fingers into a dozen cut outs.