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Can we have simple birthdays?

Remember that giant birthday party in the opening scene of Mrs. Doubtfire? Sally Field comes home with a simple birthday cake for her son, only to discover complete pandemonium.

Petting zoo animals roaming everywhere and eating everything. Dozens of kids jumping on every piece of furniture to the pulsing beat of loud music. Balloons. Ribbons. Abandoned paper cups strewn everywhere. Even a cop is there, due to neighborhood complaints. And to top it all off, there’s Robin Williams, dancing on top of the dining table with their son and a couple other kids. Pure chaos.

Or is it pure joy?

Sally Field’s character feels furious, betrayed, and quite possibly deflated. All she wanted was a simple family party for her son, not a booming block party.

Now that I’m a mom, I kind of get where she’s coming from. There’s some serious hours and money going into children’s birthday parties these days. Parents are planning elaborate, themed decorations, expensive cakes, incredible kid-friendly finger foods, goodie bags, invitations, highly structured activities – do a quick search on Pinterest. You know exactly what I mean.

Some parents spend months preparing for these big parties because they enjoy it. The kids have a blast. It’s awesome! But I wonder how many parents are doing it out of a sense of obligation, like this underlying feeling that if you don’t host elaborate parties for your kids every single year, you’re not a very good mom or dad.

The next thing I know, my one-year-old’s buddies are having more elaborate birthday parties than I ever knew existed outside of magazines when I was a kid. And all those parents are already wondering what my big plans are for my son’s second birthday … in November.

Am I always going to feel this pressure to create mega birthday parties?

Many of you have been parenting far longer than me, so I know that I’m not alone in wanting birthdays that are less about stuff and more about relationships. I’d like my son to feel special, but not just because he’s a year older. Because he is exactly who he is, and that is good enough.

You bet we’re going to do a few birthday traditions, like hanging just a few streamers and balloons and keeping this annual birthday journal. I’m sure we’ll pick up more simple traditions and drop others as our family grows older. That’s the beauty of just enjoying the day instead of building insurmountable expectations.

I remember how every so often, my mom would organize a birthday party in the backyard for me or one of my siblings, and we’d get to invite a couple of friends. The event usually involved regular old unstructured childhood play, a couple games, and cake and ice cream on paper plates we picked out at the party store. The years we got birthday parties with friends were huge deals: we got to pick out cake and ice cream twice!

I hope my son will see that we don’t need the whole petting zoo at our house to create a magical birthday celebration, and even though he just figured out how to climb onto our dining table via a chair, it doesn’t mean he gets to play and dance up there–not now or on his birthday.

As the saying goes, “Forget the cake, but look at the sweetness it gives you.”

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  1. Fiona

    With my girls now in their teens, I’ve celebrated quite a few birthdays! For almost ten years I would plan a themed party each year for each girl. Each party would mean a mixture of fun and stress for me, in equal measure. The early years were pre-Pinterest, and before there were such oodles of party products available in stores. So I had great fun creating my own supplies, because I love papercrafts and designing games and props. But now I’ve gotten some perspective and have two things to say: the party years don’t last forever, and my girls don’t remember that much of what I did for those parties! Now my girls run their own parties, and create their own decor. Love that, because I’m totally burnt out when it comes to parties!
    If I was to do it all again?: Pace yourself for the number of kids/parties/years ahead, (perhaps with a rule of a party every two years?); keep it simple unless you have great pleasure in making and planning and baking; and plan the parties for your child and their guests, not to impress the other parents!
    Great post!

  2. Chantel

    We have 4 kids 11,8,6,3 we haven’t done a single crazy over the top party. We’ve have friends over and cake with ice cream. But not much more. No Themes no fancy cakes. No extreme deco. We just don’t do it! And in the last few years we have started saying you can have a Few friends and we will do something special. i.e. We took our 11 yr old and 4 friends to our public pool this year. Our 8 yr old had 2 friends over to watch a movie. Etc.

  3. Jill Foley

    We’ve always had simple birthdays for our two girls. My oldest just turned 10 and had her first “friend” birthday party. Even this party was very simple. I’m quite pleased that we made it 10 years without parties. Part of what contributed to our success is the fact that we moved a lot during the first 6 years of their lives and we don’t live near family.

    It’s amazing what our kids will come to expect if we give them everything from the get go. If you start throwing elaborate parties at ages 1-2, they will begin to remember by age 3-4 and then come to expect bigger and better every year. If you keep it simple from the beginning, they will come to expect simple.

    We also started a tradition 5 years ago – the birthday girl gets to design and decorate her own cake. It’s not pinterest worthy, but my girls LOVE this opportunity! It will be far more memorable to them that they got to decorate their own cake than if I did it every year.

  4. Jacinta

    We don’t even have parties every year over here! It was standard in my house growing up that we would get a party every second year. I have 2 sisters, and we had about 2 bigger themed parties each in our childhood – like faeries or under the sea. Other “party years” we would have about 3-5 friends over for slumber parties or games. Simple baked cakes and fairy bread. Mum alternated who had parties in each year so it wouldn’t be a massive expense.

    For my son’s 1st birthday I did a themed party – his 2nd we just had immediate family around for a bbq. Might do the same this year as well 😀 Keep it simple – they are kids, and just want time with family and friends!

  5. Beth

    I may have the opposite problem – skipping birthdays altogether! As a child I didn’t like birthday parties (my own.) I hated being the center of attention in a big group. I was not particularly shy, but I didn’t not like to be in the center. My parents didn’t regularly do big parties but I remember the one I had in elementary – the theme was fun but my biggest memory was opening gifts while everyone was watching. One of the gifts was a barbie doll. I opened it and immediately one of my closer friends said, “Oh, she’s not allowed to play with barbies!” I felt so embarrassed – not for the rule – I didn’t like to play with dolls anyway and I still agree with my parents’ desire to keep idealized bustly women models out of the home. I felt embarrassed for the friend who bought me the toy. All that to say, as you think about parties also think about what your child would like. My favorite birthday celebrations were dates out with just my dad or with him and two friends. We’d eat at a special restaurant and maybe the staff would sing – that was plenty of attention to embarrass me in a pleasant way.
    Now that I’m an adult it’s easy for my husband and I to kind of forget about our birthdays. We don’t do much for gifts (at Christmas either.) It will be interesting to see how we raise our son. His first birthday we spend at a friend’s celebration for a new born. After that party we took him to KFC and got a sundae and took a few pictures. He had no idea what a birthday was so it was basically to say we did something “special.” He’ll be two soon so I guess I should start thinking about it. Whatever it is it won’t be complicated. As he gets older we’ll see what his personality is and what he would like. My 17 year old sister loves parties but she helps plan and prepare for them. So we will see…

  6. Maryalene

    In our area, people seem to make a big deal about birthday number one (probably because parents want to celebrate that they survived it!) but not so much after that. The parties my kids have gone to have all been low-key affairs. I can only think of one over-the-top party. For my kids, I let them have “friend parties” on milestone years (5,10,16) and most of those parties have been at the bowling alley because that’s super easy.

  7. Donna

    I never had over the top parties as a kid. There were 6 of us! My grandma would always buy us a cake and we would celebrate with cousins. Now I have 4 and I do make them a nice cake every year because I enjoy it and it doesn’t cost much money. We usually have my sister and her husband over for supper and cake and ice cream. My youngest 2 are more social and they wanted to invite a friend so we let them. The biggest thing that our kid’s look forward to is their “day away”. The girls get a Saturday away with mom and the boys with dad. We start off with $50.00 for the day and they can spend it however they want. Mom and Dad’s lunch and dinner are included in this amount as well so it teaches them how to pick places that might have a special or a coupon. They choose to go to the $1.50 theater instead of the regular theater, one daughter likes to go goodwill shopping and spends some of her money on clothes. One of my sons likes to go to Red Robin and then to a store to spend the rest of his money on Lego. They all “do the day away differently but they all enjoy it and look forward to it. It is not always done right around their birthday but we make it happen sometime during the year. For the ones who like to go to a movie or two we plan it by what is playing etc. For my daughters 13 birthday we went to a near by city and stayed in a hotel overnight. I spent $150.00 all together on that one and my 10 year can hardly wait until she turns 13! My boys want to do an overnight camping trip with dad on their 13 birthday. We don’t do big presents at Christmas or Birthdays and we don’t eat out very often so these days are always a special treat for parents and the children. It is amazing to me how much stuff my first born can do and fit into her day because she is frugal and plans with theater coupons,restaurant coupons, and shopping at second hand stores!! I think I look forward to the day as much as she does! I also suspect that having a parent all to themselves for a whole day has something to do with making it a special day. Like I said I enjoy my 2 days a year hanging out with each of my daughters and having them all to myself for a day!

    • Anu @ Mostly Amerik

      I LOVE this idea of a day away! Our boys share everything (room, toys, bed, clothes) and I really like the idea of them having a day just for them.

  8. Tammy

    My daughter’s sixth birthday was yesterday. She’s had two (very simple) birthday parties: for her first and fifth. We did not have a party this year. She got to take cupcakes (very plain, I’m no cake decorator! – chocolate with chocolate frosting) to her class at church. We celebrate very plainly and simply and I’m A-OK with that!

  9. Holly

    I have a 16 and soon-to-be 18 year old, and we have done a handful of friend parties for them over the years. Most of them pre-Pinterest… I try to make sure they know how special they are as often as I can, not just on the anniversary of the day they were born. I know some people love to give elaborate parties, and that is fine. We did big for their 10th – one chose a bowling party, one chose a jumping/indoor inflatable place party. The girls get to choose their dinner and dessert for their day. They seem to be okay with this setup, and I don’t think they feel deprived of the big party experience every year.

    I guess it is personal preference, and the standard you want to set for yourself. The important thing, in my humble opinion, is that your kids know you love them, each and every day! 🙂

  10. Dee

    I cannot say we’ve ever had an “over the top” party, but over the years I have rented a bounce house (fun), gotten a pinata (huge mistake and I now hate those evil things), and even rented a game truck (we don’t allow video games so it was really special for my son). There have been themes, but they’ve been pretty simple. I do bake and decorate a homemade cake every year which can be stressful b/c I try to top myself every year in terms of decorating. But I enjoy it, too. It’s a creative outlet in a way I don’t get much anymore. Most families here get themed store bought cakes and my son LOVES that I make his cake.

  11. Molly

    This is just in time for me as my two daughters are having a joint birthday party this weekend. Their birthdays are 2 weeks apart exactly (well, and 2 years, too). I’ve had simple birthday parties for them each year, as birthdays are important in our family. They have been fun, but sometimes stressful for me. I felt that obligation to have the games, goodie bags, etc, or sleepovers. And, to have two birthday parties in 2 weeks because they each needed a celebration. Last year, for one party, we just took some of her friends on a hike, built a campfire and roasted marshmallows and played in the creek. It was perfect. This year, I asked for cooperation to have a joint party with lots of friends over just to play games outside. I will have some snacks, water, and we will have cake (homemade!). We’ve requested no gifts, too. I feel good about it.

  12. Gina

    Thank you for reminding me I am not the only person who is not doing Pinterest-worthy birthday parties. Our second will be 1 this summer. We are inviting many people but keeping the food and decor simple. I want to spend the wk of my daughter’s birthday with her, not making homemade favors and table centerpieces.

  13. Miriam B

    I think the most important thing when it comes to birthdays is to make it a special day for that person. Nowadays, I feel like planning for parties is all about trying to impress all the people who come instead of really celebrating the individual.

  14. Angela @ Setting My Intention

    Thank you for this reminder that we can choose simple and that the cost of the party is not a reflection of our depth of love. I’m on a journey to simplify this year and birthday parties needs to be simplified in our household! We don’t go overboard cost wise but there is usually a large gathering for each of my 3 sons and I’d much rather make larger parties the exception rather than the rule! I loved the punch bowl my mom would pull out for our birthdays – red punch and orange slices with cake. Simple but still memorable to this day!

  15. Brittany Bergman

    This is such a refreshing reflection. I don’t have kids, but this is certainly something I’ve noticed lately as just one more thing that “good” parents must do for their kids. It’s a little overwhelming to think about, especially since I’m a pretty introverted non-partier. I love simple celebrations that allow a personality or a tradition or a relationship to shine through, rather than being all about the over-the-top festivities and activities. Whether it’s a wedding, a first birthday party, or another kind of celebration, creating something simple to honor the person and leaving margin leads to the sweetest memories.

  16. Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies

    This is a fantastic post. I wholeheartedly agree. And, who are we doing this for? To what end? I know my children remember the moments. The time we had a party on a 90 degree day with broken AC when suddenly there was a torrential downpour and the kids ran in the backyard joyfully. They remember the handmade pinata they created for their Dad’s 40th backyard BBQ. These are the important things.

  17. Jessica

    My two boys are one and three. My husband and I have fond memories of our very simple birthday celebrations as children so we have decided that is what we want for our boys as well. My 3 year olds birthday is at the end of summer, so each year we have invited family (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins) and a couple other families with young children to the beach for the evening. Everyone brings there own picnic supper and we provide dessert. It is relaxed and fun for all. I am thankful we started off doing things simple and now have a really fun tradition for him.

  18. Patty

    I read recently that the average cost of a wedding in the US is $30,000. No wonder! Our kids had 2-3 simple group birthday parties growing up, but, usually, they invited another family for dinner and planned the menu. It was fun, simple, affordable, and everyone enjoyed it (with none of the “hangover” from a slumber party!).

  19. Julia @ Swirls and Spice

    Amen! Creating memories and extending simple hospitality is a worthy goal for birthdays and other celebrations. I certainly don’t want to add to the pressure other parents feel at birthdays. We’re pretty low key about gifts too. When the kids were young, we did book exchanges instead of traditional gifts from guests.

    • kris

      Book exchanges, brilliant!

  20. NadiaK

    I LOVE this post. As a kid I can remember my birthday parties quite clearly – one year we had a horse-shaped cake and I got and learned to ride my first bike. It was at camp, and it was just family. A few years later I had a pool party in my backyard (and by pool, I mean kiddie pool at the end of my slide, and a Crazy Daisy connected to the hose) with my school friends. I usually got a party every year, but it was never anything huge. I didn’t even get a bowling party until my 16th, and I helped pay for it. Then I moved away from home, and the birthday “policy” around my new home drives me absolutely crazy! People go SO far out of their way to book some sort of hall and have tons of tables set up and a big buffet of food and a big elaborate cake and tons of decorations…not to mention the gift table that’s simply overflowing with more gifts than the parents have room in their house for. And by the way, the kid’s only a year old and has MAYBE five other one-year-olds that don’t know what the heck is going on. They don’t know what a birthday is, half of them don’t even like cake, and they’re always either napping or throwing a tantrum halfway through. I’m only 22 but I think I’ve got a fairly level head between my shoulders, and must say that when the time comes for my children to celebrate their birthdays, they’d better not look to me for a Pinterest-worthy party (and I mean this in the most loving way, of course 😉 ).

  21. Rheagan

    Someone else mentioned this idea in the comment feed, but we only do “friends” parties every other year. Last year, we held a joint birthday party for our two oldest. We held it in a park, had cupcakes and played American yard games like Red Rover, etc. We live overseas, so everyone enjoyed it – and it was a nice break from the themed parties.

    On the off years, we do something special as a family. It might be a short weekend trip, or some other fun outing as a family. It definitely takes the pressure off of doing a big party every year. I highly recommend it!

  22. Melissa D

    We have 2 girls (9 & 7) and a son (5), and I am the queen of the $50 birthday party. Balloons, streamers, homemade cake (but I try to do a fun one if I have the energy — I made a rainbow bundt cake one year). Fruit on a stick and simple PBJs for the kids.

    How we keep it simple:
    – we do an after-school party! Friends ride home on the bus with the birthday girl. This is always the most memorable and exciting thing the guests love — who knew!?!
    – We play outside. Just play — run — climb — race. Maybe a party game if we feel like it; I can see this getting more fun as the kids get older.
    – No goody bags. (Please… just say no to plastic crap that gets thrown away the same week.) Instead, we have a craft that acts as a take-home item, like painting t-shirts (this is where I usually put most of my $50). One year we made “mailboxes” with scrapbook paper pads and embellishments and various cereal boxes for sending notes to family or using for valentines. Nothing was the slightest bit Pinteresting at all — but it kept them busy and creative!

    I do admit that it’s hard to keep things simple like this when friends are renting venues and splurging for goody bags. And I love my friends and know why they do this — many times it’s because in a dual-income household, there’s no time for a simple home party, but there may be cash to pay someone else to do it. Which is fine…. it’s just not *us*.

    But I think the moms who come to pick up their kids and the kids themselves actually like our parties — they’re different, and laid back, and moms can chill out together with coffee. At bouncy houses there is always a kid complaining. At our house I’m all “well if you don’t like the outside game we have lots of Legos inside…” 🙂

    The hardest part for us is getting to be keeping parties small — the older they get, the more important it is that friends not be left out. But this would mean changing our kind of party completely. Any ideas?

  23. Nancy

    we tend to backyard birthday parties with a simple craft and letting the kids run amok while the adults hang out with some beers and bbq. In our old neighborhood, we used to have everyone meet us at the playground for snacks and cake. This year, actually, for my daughter’s 5th, we are doing it at a “place” for the first time…a local pizza parlor where the kids get to make their own pizzas, and they get an apron to take home so I don’t even have to buy party favors! I just have to bring a cake. 🙂 My sister bought a bounce house for the backyard and the kids just have a blast. So, no, you don’t have to make a big deal! And in fact, I get compliments on how laid-back our parties are.

  24. Michelle D

    We have 4 kids, 10, 8, 5 and 2. We live in a big city, and it’s the norm in our circles to have big parties (not that we’re that well off, it just seems to be the accepted norm). I’m not a fan of big parties, but that’s what our kids have experienced when they go to parties. So we’ve compromised and told the kids they can have bigger parties for their 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 18th birthdays, and on the other years they can have one friend over for a fancy supper and a sleepover (depending on age and preference). It’s gone over very well so far – we’ve been doing it this way for about 6 years now. The test will be the teen years, I think, but we’ll navigate those when we get there. 🙂

  25. Kathy

    Our strategy was to keep it simple from the start. Christmas gift giving, birthday parties and gifts, etc.

    We never set ourselves (or kids) up for over-the-top expectations. Birthdays and holidays have always been about family coming together.

  26. Darla

    We had no family around when I was growing up but we always had a simple party in the backyard with friends. I always enjoyed my birthday, but wished my mom would have put a little more effort into it. I wanted decorations and a fun cake and planned out games and she never did that. With my own kids, I have thrown them big, friend parties every few years. Maybe I am living a little vicariously through them but I enjoy doing it. The year one of my sons turned six, he had a Mario party and we spent days making paper mache Yoshi balls, decorations, etc. Years later my son and his friends still talk about that party. We made awesome memories preparing for and having the party. We don’t do big parties every year but when we do, I enjoy planning and hosting them. I love finding ideas on Pinterest and putting my own creativity into it. If a mom enjoys doing big parties and the kids are on board, I see nothing wrong with that. We all have different ways of using our talents in our parenting and that should be okay either way.

    • Naomi

      I can relate to your childhood wish for more effort to be put into your birthday party. If I didn’t take the initiative (as I did for my 10th birthday), it wouldn’t have happened.

      Now I’m the mom of two youngsters, seeking a middle ground between simplicity and meaningful memories. For our daughter’s recent 6th birthday we had about ten friends over for cake and games. We went with a Candyland theme, making a life-size game board in our dining room and living room. The cake, decorations, and piñata were all homemade but barely Pinterest-worthy. Everyone had fun, but we didn’t break the bank. It’s a formula that works for us right now.

  27. Patty Pivirotto

    Just to offer a different perspective, birthdays just get more complicated with extended family, period. our children have 4 grandparents, 4 uncles, 5 aunts, and 5 cousins. all of these people are close to them and want to celebrate with them. we are a family of six. so our “family only” parties are close to 25 people. we make it as simple as possible, with making some food, buying some food, asking some to bring food, but some of these people live 2 or so hours away and still want to come, so feeding them for making the trip is really not an option. it becomes a big meal! we do little or no decorations and just let the kids play together. usually we allow our children to invite a few friends (5 or less) to this family party, sometimes not. sometimes we do a little favor or craft, sometimes not. but honestly it does take a lot of planning and coordinating as we do want our children to know and be close to extended family. a simple friend after school party for us is just not possible. many aunts and uncles work and the grandparents, some who live farther away, want to see the kids on their day. so I think it is important to remember that simple is really not easy to nail down when it comes to birthdays. we keep it as simple as possible, but with a group of 30+, it is kind of a big deal just to host. but at the end of the day we do it to celebrate the child on the day he/she was brought into this world and it does work for that!! (they LOVE seeing their cousins). then to compensate for the big family party, (which we do on a weekend), on the child’s real birthday we do something fun just the 6 of us. for my daughter’s 9th birthday we went ice skating together at the state park and had a winter picnic with a fire and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows – super fun and super good connecting time with each other in nature. it was a beautiful day together. anyway, just putting some different perspective out there . ..

  28. Amy D

    I don’t ‘do’ birthday parties. I avoid going to them and I don’t throw them. My three kids get family parties until they are five at which time they get to pick a friend and pick an adventure. We pick up the friend, go on the adventure and then go out to dinner. Simple, easy, done.

  29. Sarah Westphal

    We have 4 kids, ages 4 and under, and we hosted two super simple parties : 2 hours with their friends and cake–that was it. However, with four birthdays only a month apart, I quickly realized I didn’t want to do even simple parties!
    Now we have family birthdays where the birthday child chooses the menu for breakfast and dinner (we gather a DQ cake) and a family outing which we would never do otherwise!
    So last month my 3 year old chose to go to an inside pool and this month my son wants to go to the museum together.
    They look forward to it!

  30. Jessica

    I’m a mom of obligation overload! Last year was the best year. My daughter turned 8 we invited 10 friends and asked folks to only bring canned goods as a donation to the rebel alliance (geeky Star Wars reference!). It was great. Except my daughter this year asked for us to let her friends bring gifts. Ugh I loathe the obligatory b-day party gala and the obligatory gift giving! What happened to a simple cake with candles and being surrounded by just your family??? I’ve got things to change. Thanks for sharing this article and maybe, just maybe I can shed a little of this mom guilt 🙂

  31. Dana

    We celebrated with extended family most years…one family party for each month. My grandad and I were Feb, my brother and cousin were March and so on. Just cake and ice cream. I had friend parties for my 5th, 10th, 13th and 16th….

    If I had party, no gift from my parents. If I did not have a party I got a gift. I understood that there was only so much money to be spent.

    My mom always set a special plate and cup out for breakfast on birthdays and there would be cards and gifts at breakfast ( on no party years). i also got to have a chocolate pie instead of cake on no party years because I loved it!

  32. Katherine Willis Pershey

    We have done extremely simple birthday parties – playdates with cupcakes, basically. But this year we did a party for our 7-year-old. I got the best compliment from a friend who brought her daughters – “this seemed like just the right amount of time, money, and effort to spend on a seven-year-old birthday party.” It was a lot of fun, and I felt like we were able to resist temptations to go big just for the sake of “keeping up.”

  33. Alyssa

    I think it becomes a problem when parents are more worried about impressing people with a grandiose party than celebrating the actual child. Some children truly love huge parties with tons of people, activities, and pomp and circumstance, and others are more introverted and would prefer to celebrate by doing a fun activity with a few friends. I’ve been at parties where the birthday girl or boy is crying hysterically or hiding off in a corner because it’s “too much.” That makes me sad. We change things up every year depending on how our daughters want to celebrate, what we can afford, and what will actually be FUN for everyone (and not stressful for me).

  34. Angela

    Parties come with some complications. My kids make friends at school and want to invite them to their birthday. However, we’re finding that if the parents don’t know us, they don’t let their kid come. I actually had to invite a whole second batch of kids to one of my girl’s parties because none of her school friends were allowed to come. Another complication is that some parents are ok with parties at public places, but not at someone’s house that they don’t know very well. So our solution to this has been to have parties at public places to make sure everyone’s comfortable but to also alleviate the stress on me. I hate pre-party cleaning and then cleaning my house afterwards. It’s exhausting. But that means, most of the budget goes to the rental cost and then everything else is very simple. Dollar store gift bags, simple grocery store cakes, reusing last year’s generic b-day decorations. That’s how we stay budget friendly and sane. Simply printing off nice invites on your computer is very doable now.

  35. Orpha

    I’m a big fan of simple, because we do live on a tight budget and “big” birthday parties aren’t in it, especially with a third child on the way. My oldest is a February boy, so he gets to have 2-3 friends over to play for the day, rent movies, get pizza (he chooses lunch and dinner, its almost always pizza for both lol). We take a homemade cake or cupcakes to church the sunday after so he can celebrate with his friends. My youngest is a June baby, and her birthday is only 3 days after her daddy’s. We have a big fenced in backyard, so we just bbq and cake, invite friends, maybe I’ll get some stuff like water balloons or bubbles for the kids to play with. We try to make it more a celebration of the child than a huge themed overgifting monster :-)! (Gifts are always optional but for those who want to bring something I usually ask them not to go over $10) My kids are still young, and they really like the simpler approach. I didn’t realize how much they liked it until my boy went to a friends party this summer and came home with the grateful comment, “Phew! That was exhausting!” Lol!

  36. Jennifer

    I’m definitely one of those moms who enjoys planning the elaborate parties, but that’s just an extension of the event planning and fun with details I’ve always enjoyed. If I didn’t have my daughter, I’d be that friend who hosts the awesome Hallowe’en and New Year’s bashes every year. The only difference is, instead of one friend hosting the holiday party, there are several children needing their own parties!
    I love going to a simple party, I think anyone who judges someone for having a simple party likely has issues of their own to work out. But the opposite is also true — judging those who have the elaborate parties and ENJOY it is also unkind. (I so appreciate that you took a personal and kind approach in your piece.) I wrote a piece called “In Defense of the Pinterest Parent” to give those who don’t understand a bit of perspective.

  37. S

    Thanks for a great post! How do you make the invitation list small and intimate, yet not make anyone feel excluded from the class?

  38. L

    My older sis’s birthday is in december and shes never aloud to have partys or friends or go out somwhere so i just bake a cake attempt to give her a birthday beating and make up wierd activets and she loves it oh and a present shes not really picky at all just simple unless you always spoil ur kids or sisters then ur doomed

  39. 7 years a mama

    Thank you all for sharing! Today is my daughter’s birthday and my mother just criticized me for choosing to forgo a “party” (again) to take our daughter out to dinner and an adventure of her choice. Mom thinks birthday parties should be a bigger event at our house with extended family and friends–this is what my siblings do.*sigh* My husband reminded me that it’s our chosen family culture to have birthday experiences, not themed birthdays with forty people and a gift table, that’s just not us.

    Thanks for the reminder that birthdays are personal and can be celebrated many ways and that dinner and a tram ride are not the worst birthday ever.

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