Not the Chuck E. Cheese fifth circle of hell parties, but the sprawling mid-summer lawn parties with the kids running wild through a backyard sprinkler, the adults huddled under the trees with a few bottles of wine, coolers of beer and a big cheese platter.
Somehow, the big guy (girl) upstairs saw fit to ensure I can throw one every year – they made sure I gave birth in June. And every year since my daughter turned one, I’ve made a trip to the beer store, stocked up on veggie burgers and hamburgers and pulled out the grill.
My colleague Jen says birthday parties for kids under three are silly unless you’re inviting immediate family only. I respectfully disagree – and not just because I love me a good party on a warm summer’s day.
Our kids’ birthdays are momentous not just for the kids. At one or two, Jen’s right, they barely know what’s going on. They cover their faces and clothes with cake and make feeble attempts to rip through wrapping paper. Those first two birthday parties are as much about the adults in the equation as they are the kids. They’re a celebration of a Mom and Dad’s proudest little accomplishment; and when it comes to celebrating – I say the more, the merrier.
The mentality comes, perhaps, from having a large extended family. Invite one of my father’s siblings and you have to invite all six . . . and their spouses . . . and their kids. The summer birthday thing plays a role too – I’d feel strange throwing an outside party in my close-knit neighborhood and not inviting the neighbors over to join in. Truth be told, it wouldn’t be a party without them. When something is worth celebrating, I’d like to make it a truly celebratory occasion – and that means piling on the guest list.
It also means inviting plenty of kids. Because I can’t fathom how to make the “invite the number of children equal to your child’s age” method work. Most of my closest friends HAVE kids. So cutting down on the number of children would mean cutting down on my own friends as well. And a party – a summer barbecue anyway – doesn’t feel like a party to me without kids. Kids splashing in the wading pool. Kids peddling tricyles down the driveway. Kids having juice box squirting contests in the backyard.
For my daughter, there is fun too. Even at one she knew she was the center of attention, and she was lavished with love. The photos to me are priceless memories – not least because the two parties before my daughter turned three were the last two attended by my grandmother. One day, my daughter will be able to look back through the pictures and see her great-grandmother there, alive, vivacious and thoroughly enjoying the chance to spend time with several of her great-grandchildren.
Soon enough, my daughter will beg for the Chuck E. Cheese party or its equivalent. A few years after that, she’ll be begging to go to the mall with her friends on her birthday – without her parents. Marking the day that forever changed my life and my husband’s will shift entirely to her, and we will have to honor our favorite day some other way, some private way.
Kids are kids for only so long. I say celebrate every moment.
The Other Side: Smackdown: Babies Don’t Need Birthday Parties