Parenting

The pressures of throwing the perfect birthday party

Karine shares her solutions on how to deal with the chaos that comes with throwing a birthday party for kids.

June 2007: I think Beckett's first birthday was fun, despite Milla's expression.

My philosophy is to focus on the happy chaos that comes with having kids, but there is one area where I feel particularly challenged, and that’s throwing birthday parties. I love hosting, and I find every excuse to have family reunions, dinner parties and friends for a long weekend. But when it comes to my kids’ birthdays, I suck.

Things started out innocently enough: In December 2002, we threw a holiday open house in honour of Milla’s first birthday. (Frankly, I cared more about the fact that the risk of SIDS was dramatically reduced by the milestone than the actual party!) The following year, we did the same thing. By the time she turned three, I was eight months pregnant with twins, so we decided to have a quiet, family-only party. That marked the end of our peaceful birthday entertaining.

Wyatt and Theo’s first birthday brought on a whole new set of issues: Do we get two cakes? Yes. And we sing “Happy Birthday” twice, too. What if they want the same present? They each get their own. Do we have separate parties? We decided one gathering and a shared guest list was best for our family, and this worked well — until this year. We hosted a combined “Boys will be Boys” party and long-time friends arrived with presents for both, while new friends didn’t realize that two were celebrating and felt bad that they had only brought one gift. This was my fault for not communicating better on the invite, and I vow to go gift-free from now on.

Which brings me to poor Beckett: I barely remember his first three birthdays. There are photos that prove we did give him cake and presents, but admittedly, he’s been ripped off. By his fourth birthday,
I’d learned about the benefits of location parties (someone else cleans up!), and we found a new friend in Chuck E. Cheese. We’ve returned every year since. This month, Bee turns seven. (Happy birthday, monster!) Maybe it’s time to raise my own bar and throw him a special party. One we’ll all remember.

For those of you who may be at the beginning of your birthday party journey, heed my warning: There are some parents out there who are amazing at throwing parties, and you might feel pressure to get everything perfect. (I know I did.) But for you non-crafty moms like me, try not to feel inadequate. I have been blown away by some of the parties my kids have attended. (One in particular was my friend Linda’s “Around the World” party for her daughter. Every room in her house was dedicated to a different country, and the craft and food stations in each reflected the culture. It was brilliant.) But regardless of what kind of soiree you throw, the true meaning behind the party is universal — to celebrate another year with our amazing kids. Even if there is a rodent playing host.