Ok so as usual let me start with a massive disclaimer : I don’t judge moms who love to throw a good children’s party. Truth is I actually admire their commitment and dedication to the task. How they set out to create something magical for their children’s special day, something that will inevitably make it’s way on to thousands of Pinterest boards across the country and, usually with an impressive amount of ease that has me wondering if they perhaps have access to some sort of magical super power. (Why didn’t we all get the super power I want to know!)
I will also say that I don’t feel that what has become true and clearly evident for me in my quest for the perfect kids party, is by any means a reality for such moms with said superpowers. This is simply a realisation I’ve had and something I’ve had to work through on my own over time.( I have gone on a looooooong journey it would seem to find myself in this place I am now!) I wrote this post a while ago about how I had seen the light and well I think I may have steered off course a bit because somehow I jumped back on the bandwagon of over-the-top parties and just about killed myself trying to get there.
Case in point : Last year for Noah’s 6th birthday I was 20 weeks pregnant and had just come out of a four day stint in hospital. I was told to take it extra easy and to not over-do it in any way. Of course I did what most moms who give the middle finger to advice like this would do – I hit the shops running and did everything I needed to do to put a party together in 24 hours. Yup, I came out on the Thursday and his party was the Saturday.
With a “Camping” theme in sight, I hit Builder’s Warehouse like a junkie to a meth lab. I needed wood to make camping signs and fishing rods. I needed paint and glue (Ok not really like a junkie might) and I shouted orders at my husband like a banshee. I went to Merry Pack for “Trail Mix” containers, “Don’t feed the bears” signs, games and party favours, P ‘n P for all the sweets and Steers for burger patties to throw on the braai. I roped my mom in to get to a material shop for cammo material to make the survivor packs (sweets tied in material parcels tied to sticks!) and still managed to make an army/camping cake. Because I would be damned if any one else made my kids birthday cake.
I set up tents in the garden, created a “Trail mix” bar, banged signs into dry dirt (hello drought!) and got ready to serve 50 hamburgers to 30 hungry kids and their parents. I barked more orders at my poor husband to be in charge of scavenger hunts, “Gone Fishing” and “Feed the Bear” games. I was like a Sergeant Major with an army and a 30-point plan that needed to be executed. (Except I wasn’t even pretending to fit the role at all)
Looking back, I see what a nut job I was. I had literally lost the plot and like my husband said, there was just no reasoning with me. (between you and me I think all the medication in hospital had made me lose my damn mind.) But Brendon was gentle and said I needed to go full circle and come back to him with an understanding of just how sucked into all the paraphernalia I had got. There was nothing anyone could have really said to get me out of the zone I was in. I seriously needed to chill on the madness.
The saddest part was realising that I barely spent any time with my big boy on his special day. I was so consumed in running a perfect party (that quite frankly was a big disaster with too many people!) to really take him in and see the joy on his face at different moments in the day. But when I did actually look up it was amazing what I did notice : That he wasn’t worried about all the bells and whistles, and even less worried about all the things I was panicked about not being perfect. What really struck me was that he was more interested in me being present and enjoying the simple moments. The moments that would have happened regardless of all the over-the-top decorations. If I really think back, it were all his friends crammed into one big tent where all the novelty was at.
So what did I learn you ask? I learned the hard way, that my child couldn’t give two shits about all the fuss. Or maybe it’s about making the right kind of fuss. Of course they want to feel that their day is special and that their cake is cool and that there are some yummy things to eat, but not at the expense of you having to sell your kidney or worse, at the expense of you missing out on celebrating with them and realising the true meaning of the day. What I learnt was that I’m not a nice mom when I get like that and lose focus of what’s truly important. I learnt that simple, for me, is better.
What happened to good old 80’s parties when mums would full some bowls with chips, wrap a few treats for “Pass the parcel”, play musical chairs and eat some good ol’ home-made cake? I mean when did we even start with party packs anyway? I sure as hell don’t remember any of them during my childhood.
So this year, as I felt the annual itch approaching, I listened to my inner-voice, the voice of wisdom and experience and did what I said I should a long time ago. We took the party out and put Dad in charge! We hosted a small party for my boy at his favourite venue – Rush! I told him he could invite 10 special friends to do something really fun and special. And would you believe me if I told that we spent less money on this party than we did on his camping party? With all the stuff we bought for the Camp Out Party I may have actually had to sell one of my kidneys. Or my husband’s. In all honesty it cost less and we cut corners in other ways – We skipped our family Spur dinner and had ribs on the braai instead and only had cupcakes for his class on his actual birthday. Yes that’s right I didn’t even make a cake for the Party. (I felt ZERO guilt about this haha!!)
All I did was rock up, help the kids put on their jumping socks, sit back and see the pure delight on my kid’s face from beginning to end. I was able to be a chilled mom, a present mom, a better mom!
And guys it was liberating. I felt no need to show off all the hard work I had put into the decorations or prove to my kid that I loved him by going over-board with hand-made crap. I felt no need to exceed anyone’s expectations (or my own) or judge myself on every little detail of a self-hosted party. And the best part was that I didn’t need to wash carpets, wipe stains of my couch or tidy up a entire campsite. Instead the adults and their own party afterwards, in a semi-clean house. SCORE!