In a couple of days my son is going to turn two. I’m looking forward to it albeit my heart strings ache for the baby that’s no longer here and the excitement at the kind of boy he’s becoming.
And he’s not going to get a 2nd birthday party.
Before jumping into the judgemental band-wagon and classifying me as a cheapskate of a mother, let me provide you some background info. I love celebrating life in general and usually get excited over any excuse to celebrate. My son had a 1st month introduction party, and a half-year birthday celebration before his first birthday extravaganza. For my son’s first birthday Nijntje-theme party, we rented the Chapel room of the Centraal Museum of Utrecht with 100 of our closest friends and family. To celebrate, he had his own catered buffet of Filipino delicacies served with Villeroy & Boch plates and cutlery, a dessert buffet with 12 different sweets, a play corner, a professional photo booth with accessories, a wishing corner and a three-manned refreshments table offering the finest organic juices and beverages. For his more discerning guests, he served ham and cheese sandwiches in the shape of Nijntje and their choice of unlimited Fristi and Chocomel.
Thrown in for good measure, my son also had his own private baptism with a choir and two accompanying guitarist. Of course, one of Amsterdam’s finest photographers to hallmark the special occasion was also there. He had two special outfits – a three piece Janie and Jack suit and tie and a Ralph Lauren button-up with matching corduroys to get dirty in later. Yes friends, it was a first birthday party that was truly memorable, no expenses spared for our little prince.
My son was absolutely miserable, clinging desperately to me and his dad throughout the entire time.
And since I’ve now welcomed an open invitation for unwarranted criticism on my little space on the internet, here are my reasons for not throwing my son a 2nd birthday party:
1. The Costs
I really would love to simply throw a party in our backyard but I’m wise enough not to even bother praying to the weather gods of the Low Countries anymore. Any venue able to accommodate all our guests plus food, decor and other miscellaneous rentals would cost as much as three round trip tickets to San Francisco. I’d like to start being more mindful of our expenses instead of going for broke. It’s a special privilege to be a stay-at-home mom and there’s no shame in being more kind to our fragile bank account.
And in the future when or if my son does ask for a party, I’m definitely going Dutch and literally severing only cake to all his guests – one piece each and off they go. Maybe I’ll throw in an extra cookie, or cupcake and one of those jumpy castles for good measure. Maybe.
2. The Guests
We really are blessed to have a lot of people who love and care for our little man. They’ve actually been incredibly generous with us throughout the years. But inviting them to these occasions without being able to spend quality time is quite embarrassing and one step closer from testing the ties that bind. You also recognize their glass-eyed look of utter boredom that you’re are all too familiar with. And bless the hearts of parents who bring their children along, as well as ones who have no children at all. In fact, everyone and anyone who ever attends children’s birthday parties – there’s a special place in heaven for them.
Chances are birthday parties for the non-verbal and non-school age kids (the four and under crowd) are for the parents anyway. The sooner we’re all honest about this, the sooner we’ll all be happier. Perhaps birthday parties should be renamed as “Surviving the (insert year) of Parenthood”. Rather than giving the child another unnecessary present, wouldn’t it make more sense to give a bottle of wine, or champagne to commemorate the parents for keeping their child alive for another entire year?
3. The Gifts
Whether or not we ask for gifts, chances are that we were going to get gifts anyway. So confession time – I was one of those moms who actually specifically requested what gifts we would want for our son- either duplo, cold-hard cash, wooden toys or books. And we still ended up with a Chakra candle. I’d like to believe that my son is pretty advanced for his age, but I’m sure that a candle would be a perfect opportunity for a one year old to burn the house down.
My son has everything he could possibly need, or even want. Even in terms of books, which I used to be a firm believer that you could never have too much of – we’re one step closer for having to stage an intervention and keep it under control. Not to sound ungrateful, but I’d rather spend the money we threw on the party (see costs) on a memorable family trip than accumulate more material stuff that we don’t need.
4. The Giveaway Goody Bag
Not only do we have to consider food and location expenses, but we’re also supposed to send all of our guests with parting gifts. The more “affordable options” consists of cheaply made, cancer causing plastics covered in toxic paint made in some obscure factory guilty of several human rights violations and are guaranteed choking hazards for babies. We all collectively suffer from having too much stuff – do we need to create another generation addicted to accumulating crap? As a firm believer in having some kind of consciousness for the environment, I thought I would sidestep the cheap, toxic crap by offering home-made sweets instead. In hindsight, I’m not sure whether avoiding the threat of cancer and choking, or causing an intolerable, murderous sugar high would be better.
And let me be the one who says it – you know those personalized giveaways with the picture and/or name of the birthday child and date? There’s a good chance that it will end up in the garbage bin along with unnecessary guilt for getting rid of it. Guaranteed future trash to continue polluting our planet earth.
5. The Time (Before, During and After)
Anyone who wants to throw a decent party knows how much a time investment it takes before, during and after. For a neurotic, detail-orientated mom like me, the planning in my head starts at least six months prior. Then there’s the actual preparation for the party days before and day of, a practice in the art of logistics and planning and more than a few helping hands. During the party, we’re preoccupied trying to make sure that there’s enough food, that the drinks remain free flowing and that the guests are okay. And I had to do it with a 12 kilo bundle of joy permanently attached to my hip. I don’t even want to write about the cleaning that goes on afterwards, even if a cleaning service was hired. Personally, I would rather spend the day giving undivided attention to my son and spending quality time as a family.
Let’s also not forget that the timing of the whole birthday party would actually be around the afternoon, an inconvenient time which coincides with my son’s regular two-to-three hour nap. God forbid he gets the idea that there’s a wonderful party happening all this time when he’s asleep. But more realistically, I know that my son would be giving Jekyll and Hyde a run for their money. Chances are he also might simply insist on simply sleeping through the majority of his own party (which he’s already done held on Halloween and Christmas). So why should I even bother inviting people to a party for someone who would rather be sleeping?
6. The Toddler
Excuse me for being presumptuous but most of the time, the three and under celebrants often appear stressed, tired and on the verge of an epic tantrum, nervous breakdown style (unless they already had one and are on to their second, or third). They say that children mirror their parents…
The last reason for not throwing my son a 2nd birthday party and arguably the most important – it would simply be for his sake. He’s a precocious child who loves, loves being outdoors. As his mother, it’s my duty and honor to nurture his highly sensitive soul. And though it’s also my responsibilities to set boundaries and to challenge him, I also need to be mindful of who he is. His birthday should be about celebrating him.
Shouldn’t a birthday celebration revolve around the wishes of the one we’re celebrating? Perhaps I’m also becoming a bit more Dutch in that I would rather have something low key for our little man for the gezelligheid (undefinable Dutch terminology evoking warm, happy cozy feelings). It would be less of the standard birthday party but more centered around him and all the things he loves to do, or would like to do.
Notice the apparent absence of the excuse that the child won’t remember it anyway? Pictures say a thousand words and maybe one day my son would be wondering what we did for his 2nd birthday. I’m prepared to let him know that we decided not to throw him one for his sake, that we wanted to make it special based on the child he was and not the child we thought we’d have. He’ll get an entire weekend with the undivided attention of his parents, a birthday cake, his favorite foods (probably dinner or lunch at sushi restaurant) and weather permitting, a trip to the zoo and a walk in the woods. And we’re still going to be taking pictures, tons of it actually.
My arguments for not throwing my toddler son a birthday party are obviously a byproduct of first-world problems. I should be expecting thank-you notes from our dearest friends and family soon for NOT having to make them go through another three-to-four hours of torture. And if you happen to still get invited to a low-key event for our little Junior in the future, you can’t say you haven’t be warned.