The Birthday

By Vicki Todd

Kids today are genetically different than when I was a child. Some type of mutation has occurred over the last 30 years, and it's not for the better! I'm positive anyone with kids is nodding their heads--"Yes! Yes! I know what you mean!" I can offer no better evidence than The Birthday...

We celebrated my son's seventh birthday today. After all the exhausting hoopla, I settled down and pulled out a video of my sixth birthday, for comparison: There is my mom sitting there with ten children, smiling, lighting the candles, wearing a plaid wool dress. Her hair is fresh from the hairdresser in a very large beehive. The thing I notice most about the video is the calmness of the children. They are all sitting so patiently at the table waiting for their slice of cake. Now, just to be fair, there is no sound with the video, but I can still tell there is a quiet sanity to the crowd. As I opened my gifts, the other kids sat patiently, crisscross-applesauce, in a circle around me with smiles on their faces. After the gifts, we were allowed to all run around free in the backyard for the next 15 minutes. That was it. That was my sixth birthday. I don't remember it, but watching the video, I looked like the picture-perfect child with the picture-perfect party. Simple, huh?

The kids at the party today were good by today's standards. I have been to enough parties to recognize that. However, it doesn't look anything like the video of my sixth birthday. Only Sherri, Tiger and I ate cake. What's up with that? Why don't any of the kids like cake? Opening the gifts was a free-for-all that I decided not to put on video (well, the battery needs charging). The biggest difference, of course, is being The Mom now. I got up and was still in my robe with my first cup of coffee when my sister arrived at 9:30am. I hit the ground running after that and gave up my shower to vacuum the floor. I pulled on the same shorts I had on yesterday--trying to cut down on laundry. I am definitely not my mother.

So what has happened? Who started the super-size birthday parties for toddlers who won't even remember the event? Ponies, jumpy castles, clowns, magicians, party planners and catering...whoever started all this?! They should be shot. What will the kids expect for the next birthday, a jet aircraft? These super-sized parties put a lot of stress on Mom, even for those of us who refuse to fall for it all. I'm the only parent I know who follows The Rule: the child can only invite as many kids as their age. When they were one, they had one kid at their party (and so on). The first birthday wasn't really a problem; they couldn't talk yet--the dog was our guest. I kept hearing my son say "og og." I'm sure he was trying to say dog.

Some parents (and teachers) will argue that we have to invite everyone in the class to little Johnny's party or feelings will be hurt. That argument stands up if there are 25 kids in the class and you were going to have 20 of them, but get a grip! Does a kid really need to get 25 new toys that you have to assemble and they get to break the first day?!

I've never done the extreme, I mean the super-size party. I have tried to throw a great party. For my daughter, I made my own Barbie cake (it officially goes down as the only cake I've ever made that has turned out). The next year when I tried to recreate it I found myself making frosting and putting it on the sides like plaster to hold the cake together as it crumbled. I quickly stuck it in the refrigerator and only Lillian and Haleigh (her only guest, although that was #5) saw it. They didn't mind that the cake looked like it had been through an earthquake. "It's beautiful," they declared. That's when I knew I didn't have to have a designer cake, balloons on every tree, matching plates, napkins, mini appetizers for the adults and three courses for the kids, and party bags that would make Neiman Marcus proud. Who was all that for, anyway? Not the kids--they could give a hoot.

I might have gone to the extreme today. I had to borrow plates and napkins from Sherri. She wouldn't let me use left-over Happy 40th! plates from Brad's birthday. She even brought over birthday hats! I bought the cake yesterday and had them put Clayton's name on it. No party bags, just a Beyblade for each kid (six friends, seventh birthday). No advance preparation--none.

Why can't I get it together and throw a fete like all the other Moms? Maybe it's because Clayton was puking on me the day before his birthday (why can't kids make it to the toilet?). Then of course, my husband is out of town. Lillian decided to get sick today and I ran her to the doctor. And it's raining and they canceled camp! No wonder my house is a mess! The beautiful thing was Clayton and his friends had a great time. He got to do all the important things like eat ice cream for breakfast and hang out with his best friends. Low hoopla.

Moms unite. We don't have to succumb to the pressure of the super-size birthday. Apparently, we no longer even need birthday cake! Just let the kids have fun, and make sure you have a good neighbor to borrow plates from.

© 2003 Vicki Todd and The Rebel Housewife, LLC.
All Rights Reserved

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