Sometimes I feel like the year is divided into months where one of my children has a birthday and those that are birthday-free. With five progeny, the year is almost evenly split! Right now, I'm stressing about my daughter's birthday in March. She'll be 7, and I'll be panicked until I figure out how we're celebrating.
It was a good fit, then, when the Today Show approached me with a story about the pressure parents can feel when it comes to kids' parties. We've all heard (and maybe been to one) of those take-out-a-second-mortgage carnival-like events that stretch the definition of a child's birthday.You know, the entire petting zoo in the front yard with ice cream carts, pop corn machines and caterers carving tenderloin. Dial it down a notch, and even a celebration at an arcade can break the budget — and make those of us with the next 1st grader's birthday feel like failures.
We spoke with a family therapist who offered suggestions on how to keep it manageable. One was to specify "no gifts" on the invitation. That's an idea that's caught on in my neighborhood. Dr. William Doherty also says parents shouldn't feel compelled to shuttle their children to every single party, because it can rob us of valuable family time. I'd never make them all even if I tried. Admittedly, it's hard not to get caught up in the whirlwind of planning something unique or keeping up with what other parents have hosted.
In the course of working on this story, I pulled out an old treasure. It's a worn photo album my mother made for me with pictures of those early parties. The celebrations were modest by today's standards. There was cake and ice cream, my sister and a few cousins, sometimes a new dress. And of course, the greatest memories ever.