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Children’s Birthday Parties: A Time for Celebration or Self-Imposed Stress?

Children’s Birthday Parties: A Time for Celebration or Self-Imposed Stress?

Today’s post is courtesy of Andy Schlosberg, a full-time working dad of a toddler and infant twins.

What were we thinking? And not to put all the blame on my wife, (ok, to put all the blame on her), what was HILLEARY thinking? We had skated through the first two birthday parties for our oldest son with relative ease. We kept the gatherings small and fairly simple. The “parties” were mostly about the photo opp. Grey was the main prop. (For our wedding, I quickly realized my primary role as groom was to be Hilleary’s prop for the photo album, so I was already well versed in these priorities).

But, there was no avoiding the looming 3rd birthday, and apparently, three years of accumulated mama-guilt. The short version of the party planning process: weeks of stress for two hours of chaos and five hours of clean-up. The longer version includes agonizing over a theme and color palette, designing the invitation, strategizing the time and location, choosing who to invite and calculating projected RSVP returns, brainstorming activities (all of which had to be in keeping with the theme), shopping for decorations, finding the perfect Tiffany blue cake, and crafting edible candy cars out of almond paste because candy companies don’t make any that are just the right shade of red for the party favors. Mixing an actual party with setting up the usual photo opp was intense.

Little boy's birthday party

I am a very involved dad. We share equally in the daily duties of raising three kids (see more on this here and here), but for all of this I added next to zero value (my participation may have resembled a boycott). If it were up to me, we would’ve sent out an email, picked up a cake from the grocery store, popped in some candles, sang “Happy Birthday” and patted ourselves on the back for throwing a good party. He was turning three, not getting married.

It turned out just fine, but of course not all according to plan. Activities? All the kids were playing and running around having a grand old time when left to themselves. It seemed foolish to interrupt this just to force a planned activity on them (no matter how long Hilleary had spent making race cars out of soap boxes). Festive table settings? Three-year-olds don’t sit down. Nor is sugar-as-décor a great idea for three-year-olds – pretty sure the parents didn’t appreciate it. And we were left with tons of just-the-right-shade-of-blue candy that I’m still doing my best to make sure doesn’t go to waste.

Lesson learned? My wife’s approach was more thoughtful and resulted in better backdrops for the pictures than anything I’d have planned and later we can show our kids photographic proof of how much effort we put in to make their parties special. But was it worth it? The planning and the stress and the long to-do list? This dad says absolutely not.

What will the next birthday party look like? No doubt another round of self-imposed stress. Thank goodness the twins share a birthday so we only have to do this twice a year, but I am sure there will be some guilt about them having to share their day.

Bright Birthdays: Share Your Child’s Birthday Photos & Win

Bright Birthdays Photo ContestIs your child celebrating a birthday this month? Get your cameras ready and snap a few pictures of the special birthday boy or girl! Upload your photo(s) on Facebook or share on Twitter or Instagram using #BHBrightBirthdays.

Bright Horizons will select one winner each month and send your child a fun birthday surprise. See more details.

Andy Schlosberg Bright Horizons Blogger

I’m a working dad of a toddler and infant twins. I’ll be sharing my adventures as I attempt to navigate the challenges of working full-time, parenting three children under age three, house-hunting, moving…and finding time to sleep.



One comment

  1. Rachel H April 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

    As a mom I will say it’s easy to see other people’s photos on blogs and pinterest and maybe feel some guilt for not creating those beautiful photos. But after reading your article I am going to stick with the email and cake routine (which we did for our daughter’s first birthday)…I find picking out a few decorations enough stress for me. Hopefully I can keep in mind your reasons why it’s not worth it and save us all from trying to throw the picture perfect party as my daughter grows up without feeling guilty about it.

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