I don’t enjoy planning parties. Detest it.
In the era of Pinterest-esque birthday parties with grandiose themes and elaborate decorations that require hours of planning that I don’t have, the simple thought of throwing a birthday party makes me lose sleep. I even wrote about it here. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy attending these events and admire other parents who can effortlessly and enjoyably put them together, I just don’t want to do it.
In the interest of sucking it up and because I could no longer delay the inevitable, my husband and I decided to throw our oldest daughter, Arden, a party for her 4th birthday. There would be no-frills: a princess and pirate theme appropriate for her coed group of friends, a bounce house, pizzas and snacks, and we would have it at a public park in order to avoid the stress associated with having the event at home.
I reserved the park pavilion two months in advance and invitations went out two weeks after that. The RSVPs began to pour in, decorations began to accumulate, and Arden got more excited with each passing day. She picked out a Sleeping Beauty princess dress on Amazon and a crown and wand set from Target.
She couldn’t wait to celebrate her birthday with her friends.
And then an incredible chain of events unfolded.
Our youngest daughter, Ellison, was diagnosed with a staph infection and had to be hospitalized for three days, not to be released until hours before the birthday party (with her doctor’s blessing to have her attend the party, of course). My husband and I spent the three nights leading to the party in the hospital, with little sleep and lots of fear over the uncertain status of her health. We debated canceling the party or having our parents attend in our place, so as not to spoil the fun for the birthday girl.
Then, on the day of the party, it didn’t just rain, it monsooned. Sure, the park had a pavilion, what would the guests do? Stand underneath it and awkwardly stare at each other? The bounce house would become a mud pit. After stalking weatherchannel.com and finally accepting that it would rain all day, I called an indoor bounce house facility the morning of the party and was, fortunately, able to have the location switched. Then, I was tasked with contacting all of the people who RSVP’d to advise of the location change. Some of these people were the parents of Arden’s classmates and I had to hunt down their email addresses and phone numbers. Then, when I went to our neighborhood grocery store to pick up the sandwich party platters I ordered a week in advance, I was advised by the very apologetic manager that our food order was accidentally lost.
It was like being in The Birthday Party Twilight Zone.
Do do do do, do do do do.
Despite the stress and the hiccups along the way, the party ended up being a success for Arden and her 45 (gasp!) friends. It was, in my opinion, pretty dang close to the perfect party.
Then I got to thinking. In the age of parents over-extending themselves and becoming obsessed with holding an event to make it appear picture-perfect on social media, we can easily lose sight of the true meaning: celebrating our children with the people who mean the most to us.
And here, my friends, are the five key ingredients for a perfect birthday party:
1. Good Company. I couldn’t believe the large number of friends and family who reached out to support us and offered to help with the party when they learned that Ellison was in the hospital. The number of moms and friends who texted me to remind me that it didn’t matter if the party location was changed or if it was raining because “you got this!” was humbling. The look on Arden’s face when her best buddies arrived at the party was unforgettable. Like the saying goes, it’s not where you are, but who you’re with that really matters.
2. A Fun Theme. I love having a reason to dress up and figured that a “Pirate and Princess” party theme wouldn’t require too much effort from the guests’ parents, who likely already have Disney Princess and post-Gasparilla pirate flair lying around their homes.
3. Sweets and Smiles. Even though the grocery store lost our food order, we still had awesome cake and custom sugar cookies to keep the guests smiling, and to maintain energy required for climbing to the top of the bounce house slide. Because that’s exhausting. Phew!
4. A Positive Attitude. I couldn’t control whether my daughter was in the hospital, the weather, or the fact that my party platter order seemingly disappeared into thin air. I could control my own stress level and my choice (because it is a choice!) to enjoy myself and to appreciate everyone who took time out of their weekends to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. It’s difficult to be unpleasant when you’re focused on being grateful.
5. Lots of Love. In the end, it’s all about love: love for our children and having the desire to provide them with fun and cherished memories. Love for our friends and family members who are sharing our joy with us. The desire to pay it forward with love in the future by supporting another child when it’s their turn to be celebrated.
Cheers to an imperfect, but perfect, birthday party!
Custom Sugar Cookies: Silly Monkey Cookie Company
Invitations: Minted (This is an affiliate link, which means I’ll receive a financial kickback in return for any sales. Hey, the blog ain’t gonna pay for itself, so throw me a bone!)
Photography: Synthia Therese Photography
Venue: Playgrounds of Tampa