13 January 2014

Why we choose not to have Birthday parties.

Bennett's 4th Birthday is fast approaching (2 weeks from now!!), and I've been getting asked these questions quite a bit:

"Oooh my gosh, when is his party? and "Do you have a theme picked out, I bet you have a Pinterest board going for all the party decorations!"

But my reply isn't what people expect. When I tell them "Actually, we aren't having a party for him." I get a range of expressions in return. Some give me looks of shock, some confusion, and some actually look at me like they are sad that I choose not to throw a birthday party for my child.

But let me explain.

When Philip and I had our first baby, I had this vision of what all of his Birthday's would be like. Tons of planning and prepping, cute invitations, lots of decorations, family, friends, yummy food, games... etc etc. But Philip, he had a different idea. He prefers to keep things simple. The less fuss, the better... and limit it to family only. So for Bennett's 1st Birthday party, we compromised. Philip agreed to have a party, and I agreed to keep it low key. And I'm happy to say, I accomplished that goal. Bennett's 2nd Bithday rolled around and I managed to convince Philip that we should throw another party, only this time, invite a few more people. In March 2012 my second son was born, and I vowed to have only a first birthday party for him and then after that, no more parties for a while.

And here's why.

After organizing and executing 3 Birthday parties, and not even big parties at that, I realized two things.

1) I don't like planning parties. But most importantly...
2) ... I was missing the point.

Throwing a party is supposed to be ALL about my child, celebrating them and they're day of birth, and the blessing that they truly are. But instead, it ended up being all about me and the entertaining the people that came. Worrying about getting the food and decorations done in time. And then being a crazy person that morning making sure the kids didn't ruin it all before the guests showed up. Oh and don't get me started on the clean up. Obviously, it could be a failure on my part but that isn't what a Birthday should be like.  At least not in my opinion. And it goes without saying that I love our family and friends, as do my kiddos so we're sad that they won't be included in things. But... I really want to simplify, and I feel the best way to celebrate with my kids, is to truly put all of the attention on them. And only them.

So. We've taken up a tradition that on the kids' Birthdays, we drop the other sibling off with a loving family member and take the Birthday Boy out on the town to do whatever his little heart desires. Last year, we took Bennett down to the pier and took him to lunch, then we took a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, followed by a trip to the Pacific Science Center where he got his mind blown at the Dinosaur exhibit.

Scenes from Bennett's 3rd Birthday outting last year:

I realize that everyone has their own way of celebrating, but for us, I can honestly say that the decision to skip the actual "party" and it's time consuming prepping, planning, and cleanup, is what's best for our family. So if you're feeling stressed about party planning and feeling like you need to live up to some "Pinterest worthy" Birthday party... I say skip it all together. Take your kid out and spoil him/her rotten!! I promise you, they appreciated having Mom & Dad all to himself. 

Lastly. Although this is how we choose to do things when the kids are young, doesn't mean they won't ever have birthday parties. I realize that when children get a bit older, they will probably want to include their friends, which is totally fine. So Philip and I have agreed that when they boys get into grade school, we will leave it up to them, whether they want to have a birthday party, or not. And if they choose not to, we will be perfectly happy continuing this tradition with them. :)

 So how about you? Would you ever consider something like this? Or are you a party planner?

34 comments:

fifth house on the left | family blog said...

seriously a great idea! i was thinking of doing the same starting this year for the boys keeping it low key and go to the children's museum or something of that nature. rawley will be turning 3 in april and i think we are going to start the simple "no party approach". better for my sanity and much needed quality time with the birthday boy :)

Jess Beer said...

I love party planning, but it definitely gets stressful. I think this is a great idea - still lets the birthday boy know how special he is!

Sarah [NurseLovesFarmer.com] said...

I've always loved how you celebrate your kids' birthdays! I *just* got into the "Pinterest" birthday party planning and I LOVE it! i never thought I would, but I really do! Braden's in playschool now so he is going to have his first friends only birthday party with no family other than his cousin who is in his class - he is VERY excited!

Amy said...

I love the idea of making it a special day out all about the birthday boy! We didn't have a party for Eli this year, at least no friends - his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins came over for pizza and cake but it was very low-key, just balloons and a banner, no themes or fancy decorations. I liked this a lot better than last year, when we had a big party for his first birthday (which he totally missed the point of; all it did was stress me out). I am all for no parties!

Jazmyn said...

I hate planning birthday parties. We did a first birthday party for our daughter and that was it. I'm a terrible planner and I hate being stressed out like that making sure everything is right and then I feel like I need to compete to have a good party and keep people entertained. I'm just not a party planner/entertainer lol.

So after that we've just kept it low key and done little things like for her 2nd birthday we took her to Disneyland and her 3rd we took her to the Cincinnati Zoo. On top of me hating planning parties my daughter actually doesn't like being the center of attention.

I can definitely understand your reasoning behind not wanting to do them anymore! I think we'll still throw a 1st birthday party for our son but after that, no parties for a while until they specifically ask for one lol. ;P

J.

Jennifer Marcum said...

I am absolutely on the same page as you! The stress level alone during party plannin is enough to just make you forget what your planning for in the first place. Both of my kids have birthdays a month apart, so we do immediate family only as a joint "party." It's nice to keep it simple!

Sandy A said...

I'm so happy to read this. Our youngest daughter has done this with her children. She has done the big party and also let the children choose what they want--and they have chosen more often than not to have one or two or three friends for a special day and dinner and cake and everyone has a better time it seems. No going crazy with big party plans and all the drama when you have several children and adults together--and much more meaningful for the birthday child and guests when the day is not so crazy. And not to even mention the expense for a child's birthday--it has gotten totally out of control and ridiculous. Kudos to you...

Carly said...

We just celebrated our daughters first birthday with family only, and we were so happy with that choice. You're totally right, going "all out" is actually kind of self indulgent, because it makes the party about impressing people, not celebrating the child. I have the compulsion to try and make everything homemade, grand and perfect but I resisted this year and I'm so glad I did.
Here is my story on why I kept things simple for my baby's first birthday: http://www.creating-mom.com/the-first-and-the-simple/

Samantha said...

I swear I have this same post in my drafts! We did a first birthday for each kid (with family) but every birthday since (8 total) it is just us spending the day as a family at the zoo, a baseball game, a park. I always make them a cake and I do decorate to make it fun. I like that it shows the kids that family is the most important, celebrating worth them is what is important.

Discovery Street said...

I'm so with you on this...the only reason i did a huge party for Parker's first is because the first in korean tradition is huge...i wanted to send my mom pictures to honor her culture. but there is no tradition after 1! we are definately going low key, especially bc i'll have a newborn when parker turns 2!

Jess Craig said...

ugh i feel you. except i always feel guilty about not having a party… i really hate that pressure we put on ourselves for silly things like this. it sucks.

good for you mandy for not having any part of it!

won said...

Wondering why you'd delete my comment?

Mandy@ a sorta fairytale said...

Won! I didn't see you comment from my computer but now that I'm on my phone, I can see that it says "this comment has been deleted by an administrator". I can only assume that my son hit delete on it. He has actually done it before. :( if you wouldn't mind leaving it again is love to read it!

Laura @ The Everyday Joys said...

I can see how people would think this is mean/crazy, but um...I'm with you. I mean, we had 2 big parties for Ethan...1st and 2nd birthday. 3rd birthday was my favorite decorating-wise, but it was the first one at our house (not at our huge church), and it was ONLY our parents! I love the decorating part, but all of the people and...just craziness...no, thanks. On top of that, I hate the whole inviting people part. That aunt you saw LAST year on his 2nd birthday? What does that say to her? We just want you to bring us gifts? I don't want to portray that, nor do I feel that way...but it gets weird. *shrug* I like your idea of taking them out to do what they want. That's fun! I think we will stop at 3, since Ethan had 3 good parties. We'll do 3 for Gabe, too, but all of them will be small-ish like Ethan's 3rd. (Sorry for the book comment! LOL!)

The Mrs./The Mom said...

We don't do yearly parties for my son either! But that's just how we grew up- it had nothing to do with Pinterest, lol! I love to plan parties and even still our children won't get yearly parties. When I was growing up and in my area people didn't throw parties for their children every year and we didn't expect it. I'm not even sure why but that was the way it was and we (as children) didn't care. We didn't feel any less loved, appreciates, or anything of the likes. I'm happy that you were able to make a decision that fits your family!

won said...

I did big parties for my daughter every single year. But that was because after her cancer diagnosis at age three, they were no longer birthdays. They became milestones. She was having one more birthday, and the joy and gratitude that brought was worth celebrating - as she was.

We had eleven birthday parties. Eleven. I thank God for each and every one of them, and am angry there's no more.

Meagan @ Meagan Tells All said...

I've never thought of this option of just taking them out for the day and just have fun together. We've never done birthday parties, mainly because we've always lived far from family and haven't really connected with enough families and kids in our town to do a party. My girls birthdays are both in October, and my 4 year old's is on Halloween, so October is a BUSY month for us. I want to do this for them this year. A day (or a few hours) just with mom and dad to do whatever they want. I do think that we will do a small party this year for my 4 year old because she loves having friends over, and as long as it is just a few friends and NO pinterest surfing...then I think we will all (aka me) be okay. It SHOCKS me how extreme parties have become. It's like "birthday party" and "pinterest" go hand and hand and if you don't have the pinwheels, and paper striped straws, and a theme, and party favors, you just aren't that good of a mom.

Krista said...

I'm someone who looooves to plan parties, so we do both around here. We have a party and then on the actual birthday, it's a family-only celebration. Last year we had a party in the backyard and then went to the aquarium on her actual birthday (ee-quarium as my 3 year old used to call it) and it was the best of both worlds. I really enjoyed reading this post though bc I'm always interested to hear what other people do and how it works for their family. In my mind, as long as everyone is happy (happy, non-sressed parents and happy birthday kid) it's a win.

Karly Gomez said...

Growing up, my brother and I always had our birthdays with family only. Usually one set of grandparents (paternal most of the time) was there to celebrate with us, but that was it. We had a cake, and the birthday kid got to choose the dinner, be it out to eat or at home-it was our choice-it was just a small, intimate affair. Once we got older, we each had one "friends party". Mine was a slumber party and I honestly don't remember what my brother's party was. I'd love to throw parties for my girls, but it probably won't happen until they are older and can better appreciate what a party is and help plan it. My BFF in Seattle has thrown her daughter as big of a party as she can budget each year (she's a budget genius), but she does it to make up for the rest of the year's shortcomings and the fact that she doesn't have a father who cares about her. I think it's pretty cool how much she does to make that one day super special for her daughter.

Jessie said...

I love this idea. I love the idea of keeping a birthday stress free (or low) and keeping the focus on the birthday boy. For us, I like to keep it simple and invite a few friends and their parents over. It's been a blast. But NO pinterest board. Just a few balloons and a cake. It's worked great so far.

Emma said...

Love this idea.... and we don't really do PARTY parties... but we do have family around. On the actually birthday, we go out just the 4 of us and the day after (or weekend day whichever is next), we have a little tea party. I don't stress about it... I'll put out soup and sandwiches and everyone can help themselves and of course a cake :) There is no stress about decorating. I decorate as I do anyway whether or not people come and the cake, I'd be baking it myself anyway too :) When they are both old enough to WANT a party, then we will do whatever makes them happy on their birthday!

Ariel @ Dreams To Do said...

Omg we're the same! I have only ever had small low key family parties for my kids. It's so much less stress! However this year Leila is turning 5 and she wants all her friends from school there, so we will compromise.

Steph Wagner said...

Thank you so much for sharing! My son just turned two (January 3rd, not such a great date to work with to start, but still!) and we didn't have a party. When people asked me about his party, I just said we weren't having one. A lot of raised eyebrows... Kids' parties are so crazy these days! And I swear, party shaming is a REAL thing! I think when he goes to school and makes his own friends, then he can do what he wishes, but until then we'll just keep it mellow.

ohgraciepie said...

I love your idea of holding off on the parties for a while. After going all out for Clark's first birthday, I really don't want to do that again. It's not like he would know any different anyway!

Jordan said...

That's a great idea Mandy and something that I'm sure both boys love!!

Loyal RUN said...

We don't have parties either. We are able to concentrate more on the child than the events and it's so much nicer :)

ADSchill said...

I think you have the RIGHT idea. I don't mind party planning, but with Coop's birthday around the holidays and so much celebrating already, I think his next few birthdays will be just him and us. I love what you do with Bennett and think it's a very good thing. Who wants to stress out over other people when the day SHOULD be about your kid.

Amber said...

I love this! I'll admit, when I first read the title I thought "Aww, I'm sad there's no party!" but when I read your reasoning, I really love the idea. You're right - it's all about the birthday boy and a party takes the fun out of that. This is a great idea that I'll have to remember when I have little ones ;)

Fran said...

I love this idea!! This is so great!

Whitney H said...

Honestly, I love this idea. My husband's family never did birthday parties and they were a huge deal in our household. What an awesome idea. I'm all for it!

Valerie Scott said...

I am a party planner, always have and I think that I always will be. I enjoy it. We keep the party pretty small inviting only close family. We actually just had Brayden's 2nd Birthday Party this past weekend. I think it would be fun to add a birthday fun day and still do our small family party as well. I understand your reason, party planning can be stressful and exhausting. I cant wait to hopefully hear about his special birthday fun day this year.

Hayley! said...

Love it! We have a similar stance on parties. For my son's first, I kept things pretty simple and it was perfect! I made some cupcakes, had a few snacks, and we spent some great time with family! I look forward to doing things like that for each child, and doing something similar to your "birthday outing." When I was growing up, my dad took me out somewhere special each birthday and those memories are some I will treasure forever.

Amanda Huggett Hofland said...

Wow, I never thought of it this way, but it makes so much sense! Thanks for posting - what a great concept. Some food for thought once I have children for sure.

hya21 said...

I can surely agree with you since I've actually done it twice for two children - but only after we moved into a home with enough space to throw a party.

It really was more work than it was worth (and I ended up losing some silverware!), but my children discovered before I did that they prefer that it be more about them, even if it meant less presents.

Now they're both happy to go to the local pizza restaurant with their two cousins and the necessary adults, have the servers sing the birthday song and bring a slice of cake with a candle. If only I had realized that sooner!