Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kids' Birthday Parties: Yay or Nay?

I just threw my daughter a party for her 2nd birthday. It was a Western Backyardigans Birthday Bonanza. My daughter loves, loves, loves the Backyardigans and we live in Texas, so I wanted to combine them with a cowgirl/cowboy theme.

The cake--I did not make this myself

The Birthday Girl in her boots, ready to go!

We rented out a local western-themed indoor playplace with a bouncy house, slide, swings, and party room, and had the whole place for two hours. (My daughter spent most of the party in the bouncy house with the exception of coming out to eat LOL.) We decorated the partyroom in western/Backyardigans birthday decor and played a few of the Backyardigans' western-themed episodes in the party room while everyone was eating.

The party room before--my mother, the Nana, sewed all the gingham tablecloths

Party decor--my mother bought the little hats to put on the Backyardigan Beanie Babies LOL

We served pizza, cake, and ice cream cups, plus juice boxes for the kids and soda or water for the adults. Every kid left the party with either a pink or blue cowboy hat and a little gift bag of Backyardigans goodies, plus a CD I burned of my daughter's favorite songs. Our party guests included 12 kids, about half of them from my daughter's classes at day school and half of them children of my close girlfriends, plus the birthday girl, and 14 adults, including the parents of all of those children, my husband and me, and my parents, aka the grandparentals.

My daughter and two friends in the bouncy house

Guests swinging
The kiddie zip line

Dressing up like a cowboy!

Everyone eating in the party room

Now lucky for me, I didn't have to do all of this by myself. My mother, aka the Nana, is a party planner extraordinaire. She totally missed her calling and should do party planning professionally; she is incredibly good at it.

Of course, she's had lots of practice. She planned themed birthday parties for me every year from when I turned one till my sweet 16. I had a Mickey Mouse party and a Snow White party and a Cinderella party and a Strawberry Shortcake party, plus a McDonald's party, a skating party, a putt-putt golf party, and on and on. She did everything from renting a village hall for my 4th birthday when we were living in England, to pitching a tent in our backyard for a camp out party for my 9th birthday, to renting a country club pool/outdoor volleyball area for my sweet 16. (One of my gifts at my sweet 16 was a photo album she put together for me with pictures from every one of my birthday parties!)
The Nana should do this professionally--
you should see how beautiful my bridal tea, rehearsal dinner,
and later baby shower turned out!

Now, my parents are not and never have been rich by any stretch of the imagination, but my mother has always tried to make my birthdays special with whatever she had. And when I asked her about why she did that, she talked to me about her own birthdays. My mother grew up poor in Alabama, one of 10 children. For her birthday, my grandma usually made a cake from scratch for them to eat at dinner, which was delicious, but was divided among all those kids. Depending on money, my mom might have gotten one present, like a doll, but more than likely, she got something she needed, like a new pair of shoes. That was really it. So making my parties a real event, something beautiful and special, made her really happy. She kind of re-lived her childhood dreams vicariously through them!

So, with this kind of childhood birthday experience, of course, I think throwing a fun birthday party for my daughter is important and something you just DO. I've never questioned that I will throw my daughter some sort of party or gathering every year until she turns 16. (As if the Nana would let me NOT throw my daughter a birthday party if I felt differently LOL.)

If I hadn't planned to throw a party, the Nana definitely would've!

A friend questioned me about it though a few months ago, not really understanding why I was throwing a party for my daughter--who was I going to invite after all? Which I thought was a weird question.

Now for some background...this friend is one of my best mom friends and her daughter is three months older than mine. Her daughter's birthday falls in the same week as her husband's birthday. So last year, when her daughter turned one, they had a luau party for her husband and his best friend whose birthday is also in the same week, and just had an extra cake for her daughter, but it wasn't really her party per se. I didn't see anything wrong with was actually really cute because my friend's husband got a Hawaiian shirt to wear at the party that had a matching dress for their daughter, so it was tres adorable! Everyone at the party was an adult though, except her daughter, our daughter, and one or two other older children that came with their parents.

When my friend's daughter's 2nd birthday rolled around a few months ago, I kind of expected her to throw her daughter a little party, but once again, we were invited to an adult party for the two guys, with an extra cake for the little birthday girl turning two. We RSVPed, and then my daughter and I were having dinner with the friend and her daughter and my other mom friend and her son, and my other mom friend asked me what I was doing for my daughter's birthday in three months. I had just reserved the playplace, so I mentioned we were renting that and having the party there.

And that's when my friend started asking me questions. Why was I throwing my daughter a party? Her main issue seemed to be, who would I possibly invite? Which was odd, because she, her husband, and her daughter all came to the 1st birthday ballerina-themed party I threw at my house for my daughter last year, so it wasn't like she hadn't already seen one of my parties in action. Well, I said, I'm inviting all the folks that came to the party last year (my parents, a few of my girlfriends, and their children), plus some of my daughter's friends from school (and their parents, of course).
Last year's 1st birthday party for my daughter--theme was ballerinas.
The doll at left was mine as a child and the Nana made the cover that turned the highchair into one big tutu!

My daughter's outfit for her 1st birthday--she wasn't quite walking yet!

And this seemed to be her main issue. She was surprised my daughter has "friends." Now granted, my daughter's two and they mostly parallel play still at this point, but she has been going to her day school with a certain group of children for the last 20 months. She sees these babies all day, every day, four days a week. They play and sing and read and eat and go potty together LOL. In my mind, they're friends! And my friend considers her daughter, who we only see every few weeks on playdates, my daughter's friend, so why wouldn't her classmates who she sees every day be her friends?!

My daughter's friend from school--he's actually the first little boy to hold hands with her
when they were mere babies in the nursery (daughter is wearing new outfit due to a poop incident LOL)

I just thought it was weird...her daughter has been in daycare since she was 10 weeks old, longer than my daughter has, so I was surprised she didn't consider any of the kids in her daycare class her daughter's friends, or know any of their parents. (I only invited kids who I know pretty well and whose parents I've at least chatted with a few times in passing--some I know better than others.)

This is my friend's little boy who does not go to school with my daughter,
but goes in for a hug everytime he sees her! He's my favorite potential future son-in-law LOL!

I don't know if she was just feeling insecure/competitive because she wasn't having a separate party for her daughter, and was using that as an excuse, or if she really thinks her daughter has no friends. I think it would be sad to think my daughter was in school all day and wasn't friends with any of those kids! Recently, I talked to my daughter about the concept of best friends and asked her if she had a best friend. Usually, she'll only parrot back the name of anyone I say, so I specifically did not name anyone...just asked the question and let it lie there. She thought for a minute and then said the name of a little girl who was invited to the party from her class! I asked again if she had a best friend and she repeated the little girl's name, so I was very excited to think she considers that little girl her best friend.

The little girl my daughter named as her friend

Anyway, so all this got me thinking...what do most people think about little kid birthday parties: yay or nay? Do you think it's a waste because your child really doesn't have "friends" at such a young age or are you, like me, all into hosting a party? I think that, like my mother before me, I am living vicariously through my daughter's parties too. :)

Glam-O-Mommy and daughter, enjoying pizza


  1. We had celebrated my nephews 10th birthday at AZ ON THE ROCKS ' at Scottsdale, Arizona. They have this Birthday Club, wherein, EVERYONE gets to climb for free on or near their birthday.
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  2. We have not had birthday parties for our kids, until Joey's later this September, but only a few children will be there. When Shelby turned one, she was in daycare but the children rotated in and out of her class so often that there was no real reason to invite a child who had only been in her class a few days or weeks. We had a party but it was all family who attended. For her second we invited a few neighbors with kids and one classmate of hers whose mom I was close to. It was mostly for the parents and since all the other children present were boys, I didn't plan a theme. I doubt Shelby will ever have another real party mainly because of autism. She does not have "friends" as you and I would understand them and traditional theme parties are a bit much for most of the children she knows through school. I had always hoped to do those type of parties with her but God had other plans. Joey has never had a big birthday party so this year my parents are hosting a "College Football" theme party (since his name is Joseph Patrick, we nicknamed him JoePa) at their home. Only a couple of little kids will be there. Joey and Will have not gone to daycare almost at all (Will never has) so they do not have those type of relationships as of yet.

    Like I said, I had always hoped to have those types of parties for my children, but it just didn't happen to work with our family. Combine that with the fact that my husband was out of work for almost two years...budgets kill!

  3. My little guy was in daycare starting from 4 months and he absolutely went to tons of parties for his classmates starting from about the age of two.

    We always had a big shin dig for him at our home with family, our close friends and their kids up until this year.

    He just turned five and this was the first time he asked for a party with his school friends so that's what we did. We had something at The Little Gym.

    I definitely think kids have friendships at that age.

    btw, that little tutu-like outfit on your daughter at her first bday? SO adorable.

  4. Where do I start!!! I love the all-out party! Yahoo!!! I am so into that cake! And your daughter's pink cowboy boots...would I have to wrestle those off her feet or would she surrender them without a fight? I. Want. A. Pair. Just. Like. Them. Don't judge me :)

  5. Kristen, I understand about your situation with Shelby. That's tough. I think the College Football theme party is a great idea! Adults and kids can wear their gear and you can serve tailgate-style food! Fun!

    Saucy B, thanks for the compliment...I was so in love with that tutu I planned the whole party around it! My mother sewed rose petals into the highchair cover tutu to match! (Not sure if you can see them in the picture LOL)

    Sandra, I saw your post about Terran's (sp?) recent birthday, so I know you are all about the theme party! And the best part about those boots? They have stars on the side that light up when she walks! They are so cute...I want a pair myself! So no judgment here!

    Thanks for all of your comments! :)

  6. I think it's a very personal thing ... if the child enjoys big groups and the parents enjoy entertaining, why not have a party. But, if not, I don't think a kid will grow up with regrets if they didn't have parties when they were young.