When I think back to my childhood birthdays, the things that stand out in my mind are getting to choose my favourite food and finding money in my cake. There was never any elaborate theme, decorations, activities, or fuss. What mattered most was that I got to enjoy my special day, eating my favourite food with my family.
Somewhere in the age of social media, parties have grown into elaborate affairs. I’m guilty of spending too much money on the perfect decorations and party favours for a kid not even old enough to know what’s going on. It’s definitely fun to go all out for a party but I think sometimes we lose sight of why we are doing it. Are we doing it because we feel like we have to in order to keep up with everyone else on social media? Are we doing it to show off on social media?
This year, for Liam’s 5th birthday, I didn’t want to bother with keeping up with the brag-worthy, Instagramable, Pinterest-inspired party. I wanted Liam to be able to celebrate his special day simply, with his favourite people. I wanted his birthday memories to be about who was there and how he felt, rather than what theme he had and how pretty everything looked.
At the end of the day, does he really care that all his food matches a theme? Nah, he just wants to eat an acceptable amount of food so he can eat cake. Does he care that you spent $80 on custom decorated cupcakes? Nope, he just wants a cake. Is he going to notice if there are decorations or not? No, he’s going to be too busy tearing apart his gifts. So why would I stress myself out and shell out way too much money finding the perfect venue, matching decorations, and theme appropriate food?
This year I said forget it.
I decided I was going to order in pizza, make a simple cake with money hidden inside (just as I got as a kid), let the kids open presents and entertain themselves. I didn’t curate the guest list, I let Liam decide who he wanted to invite. There was no fuss and nothing that produced beautiful, inspiring party pictures to post on the internet.
And you know what? It was perfect. He had the best time.
He woke up on his birthday to the annual tradition of balloons and gifts waiting for him at the kitchen table. We spent the day at the zoo as a family, and with his best friend, before coming home for pizza, cake and gifts with four of his other closest friends. The kids loved finding coins in their cake, they worked together to build a new Lego set Liam was gifted, and ran amok having a blast until bedtimes were lingering. It was not fancy, but it didn’t matter.
At the end of the day, snuggled up in bed on the verge of sleep Liam said, “Mom, this was the best birthday.”