My son turned 1 not too long ago, so I feel that I am now qualified as a mother to bitch about this topic.
People, when did birthdays get so fucking complicated?
When I was a kid my birthday parties were mostly just family. I have video footage from the 80s of a three year old me running around in a frilly blue dress (and later, just my underwear because that was just how I rolled) and opening up presents from my aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents. There was ONE kid at my party in those days and she was probably only my friend because our grandmothers liked to hang out and gossip over coffee and we inevitably tagged along on those coffee dates since our grandmas were our babysitters.
As I got older I was allowed to invite 6 friends from school to a SEPARATE and SMALL party, normally held after school. It was usually pizza for dinner followed by cake. Dad only ever made up goodie bags once in all that time, for my 8th birthday, and only because my Nana had provided them along with the rest of the Snow White theme stuff she’d had leftover from the birthday dinner at her place.
Nana’s parties were the ones where balloons were put up everywhere, streamers were hung, and they had a “theme” of whatever characters happened to be on the plates and cups she’d picked up from the store (likely on sale, because Nana was smart and knows how to shop). The cake was made from a cake mix and then she frosted it with the usual icing (made with icing sugar and margarine) and then to be super creative she would have some sort of figurine on top (or a few of them). One year she had bought a Littlest Pet Shop cat with her kittens (it was probably a set that would sell for $7.99 today) and put them on top of the cake. My brother got Power Ranger action figures (the small plastic ones for $5, not the ones with small parts that kids can choke on). That was pretty fucking awesome because in addition to all the other presents we had the cake to look forward to and the cake had MORE TOYS for us.
As a tween I got ONE sleepover with about five girls, and I think one or two ended up not showing up. Can’t remember. My BFF was there though, so that’s all that really matters.
My birthday parties as a Teen were even smaller. A dinner either at a restaurant of my choosing or dinner at home with whatever cake I wanted. My Sweet Sixteen had a banner, pink balloons, pink leopard print streamers and a cake. My BFF came down with my Nana and Poppa for that birthday, because at that time she was still living in our small city of nowheresville and I’d moved down to the big city four hours away. Two other girls also came to the party. Anyway, the games were whatever we came up with (I think we watched a movie in my room? Listened to music? Hey BFF if you’re reading and actually remember that party can ya help a girl out here?). The food was…food shaped. It was Pizza from Pizza Hut and we drank Coke or Pepsi or Sprite. We ate potato chips by the handful (or I did. Not sure if my friends were “on a diet” yet or if they still knew how to let loose).
And obviously now my birthday is spent doing whatever I want and then I get to pick out the food and a dessert that I get a bigger portion of. Obviously.
This is what birthdays were like growing up and they were awesome. I have plenty of happy memories and while I don’t remember every “theme” I do remember the joy of being surrounded by my family.
But now I’m a mom and holy shit things are different! I thought a few of my friends were nuts for going “all out” for their kids’ parties. I heard of (and personally knew) moms who would invite every kid in the class/daycare. They would spend days on a cake or making decorations. Tons of stress and planning went into these parties, and I would ask why (in my head. To be clear I never actually said anything). I understand that some of these mothers were artsy and enjoyed making the crafts and that it was mostly for them, not the child. But still, I saw that stress and that work and I thought to myself, “no, I don’t want that to be my experience.” I am not like those mothers.
Cut to NOW, and even just before my son’s birthday. It’s like living on the outside and seeing the crazy and thinking it’s isolated, and then you become ONE OF THEM and see that it’s expected. Like seriously WTF?
I was asked by no less than five people what I was going to do for Hunter’s birthday. I wanted a small party with just family. Apparently that’s not something people do anymore. “No kids?” they asked, disappointed. “Well, his cousin is coming because his aunt is invited,” I say, shrugging. His cousin is a few months old. Also, apparently friends with kids now get offended when you tell them it’s just family.
Dude, I am seriously letting you off the hook here! You can actually enjoy the weekend without having a bunch of screaming kids around that aren’t yours. You don’t have to dress up or even leave your house. You don’t have to worry about cheating on your diet, or if you don’t care about that, you don’t have to worry about your KIDS getting hyper and ruining your evening quiet time. You don’t have to go to the store and shell out money on a gift for someone else’s offspring (although I make a point of telling people they don’t need to buy a present). You don’t have to buy wrapping paper or a card. You don’t have to endure hours of fake pleasantries with my family whom you only barely know, or pretend to care about what other moms think. You don’t have to threaten your offspring to be on their best behavior. I’m giving you a free pass here. TAKE IT!
But no, that’s not what we do. Instead we post crap on Pinterest and Facebook and share the fuck out of it and comment on how clever and awesome the mom is for making individual cupcakes into monsters or flowers or whatever. We come up with elaborate “theme” parties for our kids complete with a bunch of games because god forbid anything they do be unstructured. And then we comment on posts like this and bash the moms who insist that all that crap is stupid and they’re not doing it.
And then I read the post and agree with it, then read the moronic comments (because my god, it’s like a train wreck and I secretly enjoy watching stupid people make asses of themselves and I don’t work retail anymore so there you go). And then *I* have to comment on the stupidity of their comments.
It’s a never-ending cycle, people, and I’m tired of it.
So here’s my list of reasons why I’m not playing this game.
1) I’m not a Pinterest Mom. I have decided that for the purposes of this blog, the term “Pinterest Mom” is defined as that mother who goes all out with her crafts and her baking and her super creative ideas and games. I’m not her. I’m not spending my time coming up with games and crafts for my kid or myself to do. I don’t make decorations, I buy them. If I bake a cake or frost some cookies I did it with store-bought icing and sprinkles. Hey look, I cut cookies out into cool shapes with the plastic cookie cutters I got and actually managed to put colored icing on them…
…like, maybe for special occasions. Maybe. But if I skip that last step, be happy they’re at least in cool shapes instead of just spooned onto the cookie sheet. Frost them yourself if you want. Icing’s on the spice rack with the sprinkles.
2) I’m not a Party Mom. You know what my ideal birthday party is? Less than 10 people over for cake and pizza. Know what people expect of me now that I have a kid? Way more than that. I’m not that mom. I’m not the mom who will invite every goddamn parent and child in my friends list. I’m not the mom who enjoys lots of people. I’m the mom who would rather just have family over for the day and be done with it.
3) I’m not competitive. Like, seriously NOT competing here, people. I’m not saying all this to be edgy or to be controversial. I’m saying all this so that other non-competing moms who want to be friends know that I’m really not THAT mom. I won’t see your attempt at a theme party for your kid and then try to outdo you. I won’t look at your store bought cake and then make a point to say that my fancy ass cake took three days to make from scratch. I probably bought my cake too. It’s easier than trying to frost the damn thing.
4) I seriously do not care about half this shit. If you go all out for your party with the decorations and the food and the cake, you know what I’ll notice? How hard you’re trying to impress people. I’ll be questioning WHY the whole time. I’ll think of how much work you’re putting into something that’s not a big deal. I’ll see you stressing out over the decorations or hear you comment about how you barely slept the past few days because you were working on the cake and I will shake my head. It’s not that I think what you’re doing is a waste of time, because obviously the results are amazing, but just understand that I don’t expect it of you. I would happily attend your child’s party even if you didn’t do ANYTHING for it. If you said, “hey, we can’t afford party bags” I’d say “no problem”. If you decided not to do a fancy cake or serve food I would still come over, bringing my own food for us to share if the situation called for it. Or we would eat before we arrived. No gifts? No problem. Same goes for my parties. If I invite you then I’m asking you to come celebrate with us. I do not expect a gift out of it. In fact, save your money; Hunter has enough toys from family and you have your own families to bestow gifts upon. Truly the expectation of buying a gift for every birthday party you’re invited to could get expensive if your kid happens to be popular. It’s like the expectation of buying everyone a present at Christmas. It’s a nice thought, but please understand that money is a precious commodity and buying a gift for everyone could mean that we can’t afford to pay our bills. Same goes for birthday parties, weddings, and every other expensive celebration. I’m not saying those things aren’t nice. I’m not saying people who choose to spend the money are careless or stupid. I’m just saying that for THIS family, it’s not necessarily a priority.
5) I know how it feels to be the odd-mom out. Or rather, the odd kid. I grew up in a single-father household and Dad did the best he could, but he wasn’t “that mom”. We couldn’t afford to be that family. My parties were small and simple because we had no choice. Crafts cost money. Or time. Or both. Time is an important commodity and how Dad chose to spend it was to just BE with his kids. We didn’t spend weeks leading up to our birthdays slaving over hundreds of little paper decorations. We didn’t hand-paint any “goodie bag” items. We didn’t agonize over baking a fancy cake or making our party “memorable”. But other moms did. It made my parties look “lame” to other kids and they made fun of me. It made ME feel bad, but it probably made Dad feel worse. But really, it made me think that none of it really mattered. If other kids were going to be so shallow then so be it. Who the fuck cares? They obviously were only friends with me if they could get something out of it, and who really needs that? So rather than grow up thinking that I need to overcompensate for what I was “deprived” of, I’m going to just keep it simple. It teaches a better lesson to my son and his REAL friends anyway.
6) Parties are fucking expensive! I am horrified by the attitudes of some of the moms these days. In some of the comments on the various “let’s ban loot bags” posts a lot of them complain that other moms shouldn’t be so cheap. “Why have a party at all if you’re going to cut corners?” they say. They point out that they spend maybe $5 per kid and they have a great time with their themed goodie bags that were thoughtfully hand-picked by the hostess. Or hand-made for “just a few dollars”. Missing the point, people! It’s STILL fucking expensive. How many kids are at these parties again? Oh yeah, way more than two. There’s probably like eight or more kids and they ALL “deserve” a thank you gift for coming to the party? And we’re spending $5 per kid, right? Do the math. You invite even just 5 kids (what Dad’s limit was, with or without the goodie bags) and that’s $25 you just spent. You just bought $25-$50 worth of crap for someone else’s offspring on YOUR kid’s birthday! That’s $25-$50 you could have just spent on the fucking present! And then we’re supposed to have food for kids AND adults, right? And we’re supposed to be more innovative and “health conscious” these days so it should be homemade. I can’t just order Pizza and have pop? No? Fuck this, then!
7) If I don’t do all this shit I’ll be seen as “not trying hard enough”. Seriously, I read several comments by these Pinterest moms and a lot of them were all “oh, you don’t want to do the work involved. Your poor deprived kid.” They all say crap like how I’m selfish or cheap or that it’s really not that much of a hardship to “put a little effort” into a “fun” party theme. Then they all say “look at what I made!” and display a picture or describe what they did to make their party so much better than mine. You know, because they CARE! And I obviously don’t love my kid enough to CARE the way THEY care. Whatever, dude.
8) It all ends the same anyway. If I make a Pinterest-worthy party cake it still gets eaten the same way a store bought one would, or cupcakes from a box of cake mix. I’ll still have leftover food, whatever that might be. The decorations still go in the trash or are saved in a shoebox for next year. The goodie bags I’ve received from Jane’s parties usually end up half-trashed. I maybe keep the useful stuff but the candy is probably still in the cupboard because if I remind my husband that we have it, he will eat all of it in one sitting and then bounce off the walls and annoy me. He’s like a kid with candy, I swear. I didn’t need to babysit anyone’s kid to know what having one would be like, or to “prepare me” for becoming a mother. I’ve had my husband for that, thank you very much. Anyway, my point is that all that effort and time and money spent on the party? Not worth it. A simple and generic party is way cheaper, requires less clean up, and I can actually enjoy watching my kid have fun without watching the clock. That reminds me…
9) I don’t buy into the Structured Play nonsense. There won’t be a bunch of party games because it takes away from the fun of actually PLAYING with the toys. I’m also going to go ahead and have a separate party for kids and a separate one for family. The family party will be about opening the presents. The kid party will be about playing with the toys the family got for my son to enjoy. See, the problem with “party games” is that parents have to be watching the clock and sticking to a schedule and then they have to round up the kids for said game. Then little Jenny gets upset because she’s not winning. The birthday kid thinks HE should win every game. I’m expected to give every little shithead a trophy for participating as well as an actual prize. No thank you. Not happening. Put on a Disney movie if it’s raining or have the little bastards run around outside and play with the toys. I’ll be watching on the sidelines and chatting with the guests I actually wanted to invite.
10) It’s supposed to be about the fucking kids! This is the line that the Pinterest Moms like to use against me and the rest of my “group” of “party poopers”. “Won’t these selfish moms PLEASE think of the children!” they cry in a voice that sounds a lot like Helen Lovejoy of The Simpsons (at least in my head that’s what they sound like). And to them I arch my brow and cross my arms and say “REALLY????” Are we REALLY going to pretend that all these theme parties and decorations and fancy ass cupcakes and cakes are REALLY “for the kids”? Are we REALLY going to pretend that we spent “months” or “weeks” hand-crafting all these individual mini umbrellas or whatever the theme is, and that the kids were “happy to help” and enjoyed the whole party planning process? Are we REALLY going to pretend they weren’t rolling their eyes and thinking they’d rather go play on their own instead of sitting at the kitchen table every night or every weekend helping you with all this crap? Are we REALLY going to pretend that this awesome theme party with everything hand-made and “creative” is really any better than my store-bought, last minute party? Are we really going to pretend that kids WANT the healthy snacks and the gluten-free cake and the non-GMO whatevers over the hotdogs/pizza/sugary treats? Are we going to keep pretending this isn’t about us and our need to be better than the mom next door? Seriously, get over yourselves.
Oh, and by the way, my son had a lovely birthday on the 17th of May. We had chips, pop, a salad that my mother in law made, a cake she bought from her store with boston cream icing, and hamburgers/hot dogs on the BBQ. The guest list included my grandparents, Ty’s grandparents, Ty’s parents, Ty’s sister, and an older couple who is friends with Ty’s dad, as well as our ex roommate who is “uncle” to our son. My own parents couldn’t make it because they suck (just kidding; Dad had to work and Mom lives 4 hours away). My brother works pretty much every weekend and couldn’t get time off. My stepsister had just given birth to her second child three days prior to the party, otherwise she was going to come out with my niece. We blew up a few balloons and put up the generic Happy Birthday banner that we use for everyone. And my son didn’t care. He’s fucking ONE! He was more excited about the bike Grandpa got him and the wagon Nana and Poppa brought down, which was a gift from my aunts and uncles. He was more interested in eating the wrapping paper than opening up more presents. He smashed his piece of cake and not once did I hear him whine about how it was just a simple white cake with his name on it. His 3 month old cousin didn’t care that there weren’t any goodie bags. And we still had a fucking blast!
Best part is that his grandmother, my mother in law, did all the work. I got to enjoy the day with my son. I got to watch him open his presents and I got to visit with my grandparents. I got to actually enjoy the party and not worry about a schedule or carefully arrange decorations or any of it. It was totally effortless, and it was still an awesome party! No Pinterest needed.
Happy Birthday, Hunter ❤