Parenting

Why I'm outsourcing my son's birthday party

After a particularly hectic month, Susan decides to let other people deal with the stress of her son's birthday party.

Susan's homemade cake.

I just took a huge (well, at least significant) step toward the betterment of my mental health — I outsourced Isaac’s sixth birthday party.
 
He’s a summer baby in a household full of winter birthdays, which means that his is the only party each year where it’s possible to hold a party outdoors. And, because we can, that’s what we have tended to do, inviting over as many little people and their parents as can easily fit in our backyard, loading up a table with potluck treats, blowing up balloons and tying streamers and running scavenger hunts and egg-on-spoon games, and — last year — renting out a bouncy castle. I bake his birthday cakes from scratch — they’re not necessarily pretty, but they’re filled with love. His parties are fun and raucous and freewheeling, and the mere thought of the work involved in putting one together this year exhausts me utterly.
 
Is that wrong? I have friends who love planning their kids’ birthday parties. (OK, you know what? If I really think hard about it, I have precisely two friends who love planning their kids’ birthday parties.) But I have a bunch of deadlines pending in the next couple of weeks. I have vacations to plan and summer camp to schedule. We’ll have to clean the house, only to see it demolished in a couple of hours. We’re building a shed (by which I mean we have hired people to build a shed) in the backyard, which means that it may well be a mess of nails and siding and plywood back there. My dad and my stepmother are coming to town, along with two of my young nephews, and while I will be thrilled to see them all, their presence means that the entire weekend will already be filled with sleepovers and events and highly stimulated/overtired children and cooking — complicated by the fact that my dad and his wife recently decided to adopt a fat-free vegan diet (just like Bill Clinton!).
 
So! An outsourced birthday party it is!
 
We’re not even allowed to bring the cake. I will do my best to refuse to feel guilty about this — I mean, it’s not as though I don’t cook and bake with the kids in mind the other 364 days of the year, right? Right. I will likewise try my best to refuse to feel guilty about pulling a bunch of first graders in from the beautiful outdoors on a June afternoon to spend couple of hours in a windowless indoor play space. They have the whole summer to go outside. But for two hours on a weekend afternoon, when my sanity is at stake, I’m sure we’ll all be just fine — or, maybe, even better.