Sunday, September 22, 2013

Stop the Birthday Madness

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Bug is going to turn six about six weeks from now, and I know I'm already totally behind the game as far as party planning goes, as Prickly Dad gently reminded me this morning ("umm ... honey ... maybe you can start thinking about Bug's birthday party this weekend ...")

Let me state this at the outset: I'm a very down-to-earth girl. I value and admire humility. I'm all about understated and heartfelt. I had ten guests at my wedding because pomp and circumstance and showiness just for pomp and circumstance and showiness's sake really irritates me (and for the record, my 10-guest wedding was my dream wedding). So you can understand why I'm not all that into the invite-the-whole-class-for-a-$500-party-every-single-year birthday rigamarole we've somehow gotten ourselves into.
Prickly Mom turns 11

I don't know how this happened.

Here's how birthdays went down when I was a kid. You'd wake up in the morning and go down to the kitchen where Mom and Dad would be having their morning coffee and getting ready for the day. There would be hugs and kisses and birthday wishes ... and a pile of presents on the kitchen table, which you'd get to open right away. Next you'd get ready for school, and on your way out the door, Mom would hand you a big metal pan of homemade brownies to pass out at school, where your teacher and the entire class would sing to you at snack time. After school, you'd come home, play with your new toys, and field phone calls from relatives. We'd have a special family dinner -- whatever the birthday kid had requested (in our house, it was usually roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, but I remember my sister requesting a processed turkey roll one year; another year I wanted to have a salad bar). After supper, grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles would come for ice cream and a home-made and -decorated cake. We were lucky enough to have three cousins who were the same age as my sisters and me, so there was always an instant party. A couple classmates would usually come over, too. You'd open more presents, goof around with the other kids, and then go to bed. The End. No frazzled nerves. No pretense or showiness. No hours of pre-planning. And certainly no $500.

The thing is, birthdays were somehow still special. I have wonderful memories of them to this day (my sisters, cousins, and our old friends from the neighborhood can be thankful that I don't have a way to digitize our old movies, because I'd totally be posting a circa-1978 Super-8 birthday movie clip right now). The key element, for me, at least, was that I always felt special for the whole day, and I knew everything that was done came from the hearts of the people who cared about me. My husband grew up in urban affluence, so I sometimes feel like he's not "getting" how such simple things still make a kid feel special. But they just do. We've incorporated balloons and streamers and Carvel ice cream cakes into the Prickly Family repertoire, but I still long to keep it simple, because it's something I truly value.

All right. Guess I'd better get planning.

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  1. I don't like huge parties either and never had them growing up. My kids have simple home parties and a few gifts, and that's it. They are happy with it and most importantly, I'm still sane afterwards.

  2. Hi I'm Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! Heather.vonstjames(at) Thanks!!