“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” fruit kabobs? Check.
“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” cookie-and-milk bar? Check.
“Goodnight Moon” pies? Got ’em.
I started planning my son’s first birthday party months in advance. I spent hours scouring Pinterest boards for inspiration. I decided on a storybook theme, and, I’ll acknowledge, went a little overboard.
As a first-time parent, I felt a strange amount of pressure when it came to Jack’s first birthday party. Today, we are surrounded by social-media images that so often show perfect outcomes. Even Facebook and Instagram are filled with Pinterest-worthy parties. Everything looks so elegant and effortless. We don’t see behind the scenes.
The fact is, I was a ball of stress when the custom storybook cake I ordered was delivered late. Jack wouldn’t eat his expensive Dr. Seuss smash cake no matter how hard we coaxed, and I spilled some “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” sauce down my shirt … more than once.
Of course, you wouldn’t know any of this by the pictures I plastered on social media.
Jack’s second birthday party was different. This time, I was 20 weeks pregnant and lacked energy to spare. Because of my son’s obsession with transportation, I chose a “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” theme. I skipped the custom invitations and curated cake. We ordered pizza and a sheet cake from Costco and let the kids run wild.
And yet, this party was successful in the same way the first one was — we were surrounded by people who love my son.
The kids spent the day playing with balloons and toy boxcars. The adults enjoyed the gorgeous weather and each other’s company. Everybody had fun, and it wasn’t because of the stoplight goody bags I made.
Here’s the thing: I like party planning. For me, going down the Pinterest rabbit hole when my kids are asleep is a way to unwind. Even though I’ve overcome the pressures of putting together the perfect party, I’ll still browse. Although I may let go of the gourmet spreads, I probably always will spend energy on decorating, because it’s something I enjoy.
It’s all about what works for you and your family. If planning a party is stressful, don’t do it. There are so many alternatives to a traditional birthday party: Take your child and a couple of friends to a movie, go to a water park, treat them to a little “staycation” at a local hotel.
This month, I’m keeping things simple for Jack’s third birthday party. We’re setting up at our neighborhood park and inviting a small group of family and friends. Jack is set on a “dinosaur park” theme, so along with balloons, I’ll indulge a bit in finding decorations via Etsy, dollar stores and Hobby Lobby, which have proven to be low-stress, low-cost options.
Birthday parties can be over-the-top or bare bones. Either way, what matters at the end of the day is that your child feels celebrated.
From my experience, that doesn’t come from Pinterest-perfect details, but from the people who are present.