Birthday Parties

We’re throwing Fred’s sixth birthday party this weekend, and the other day Max and I did a mad scramble for a birthday cake. Work deadlines, a very bad cold and just life in general got in the way, and before I knew it it was Wednesday, 4 days before the party and a month too late for most custom birthday cake orders!

There is, of course, the safe and reliable Costco, which I am definitely not above (especially seeing that is where the juice and fruit for the party will be coming from). But we did Costco last year, and the selection was small…and Fred has been asking year after year for a COOL birthday cake, COOL as in race cars or Bakugan (and not prissy balloons) adorning a 3-inch layer of dyed sugar.

Our compromise: Whole Foods. They do custom cakes on 3-5 days’ notice and they use only natural ingredients. The sticker price was a bit of a shock after Costco but I’ll pay anything for my child not to ingest blue and black sugar.

The other shock (and you’d think I’d know better by now, having done this a second year) is how much everything adds up, how awfully similar this feels to planning a wedding.


Weather considerations.

Right day and time. 

Advanced booking.

Guest List.

If we invite this person then we’d have to invite the whole clique but we only like this person.

Invitations, using an imperfect contact list with email addresses for some parents and telephone numbers for others.

Party favors.

Paper supplies and utensils.




Driving and parking instructions.

Following up on RSVPs: Why hasn’t she responded? Does she not like my child?

Thank you notes, that we will insist Fred handwrite.

But unlike a wedding, there is no pressure (from the guest of honor) to do this again the following year. Because as primitive and immature as young minds are, they will remember their birthdays, they will remember the existence of a past elaborate party that commemorated that birthday, and they will expect it to happen again. Fred, for example, already began planning his 6th birthday party the afternoon of his 5th birthday party. And he has been asking “When’s it gonna be March?” since June. He finally stopped asking when he figured out how to read the calendar himself, and what followed was a day-by-day countdown to March. This past Monday, the day after February 28, was a big day in our household.

Now, not every parent throws a party for his/her kids. Some rotate through the siblings or rotate through the years. Some years they have a quiet home party, other years they will do something bigger with friends. Finances dictate the decision for some, while time or discipline decides it for others. For me personally it is hard to hold back, hard to say no. As extravagant as it seems to bring so much attention to this one day, I realize that Fred’s birthday is as much a celebration of his birth as it is the anniversary of the day I became a mother and the three of us became a family.

4 thoughts on “Birthday Parties

  1. I hear you. My older daughter has a late fall birthday, and we have a small home, so we’ve had her last two parties at a local gym. That way, the kids get to run around and she was able to invite her whole class, which she really wanted to do. I remember that as a kid, I never understood why my aunt got so stressed about planning my cousin’s parties, but now I do. Happy birthday to your son, happy anniversary of becoming parents, and hope you feel better soon. 🙂

  2. Happy birthday to your big boy! We’re celebrating Zoe’s birthday today, as well, though I’m feeling super low-key about it. (The difference is no kids, just family, and she’s only 2!)

    Have a wonderful time!!

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