My baby – not the one I’m currently growing, but the one who’s been the youngest in our house since his birth – is officially a teenager today. Part of me wants to weep over the fact that these two darling kids of mine are more like men then boys these days, but then I think about how very much I like them (more and more each year, in fact), and about how we’ll have a newborn again in a matter of weeks, and I push those pregnancy hormones back where they belong, and carry on celebrating in his excitement that he’s old enough for so much more now that he’s no longer a child (snort).
We had a party for him here yesterday, something we’ve done since both kids were born. For a few years it was just family, then friends rolled into the mix and we generally hosted a second celebration to include them, and now we’re back to the family parties with weekend sleepovers, or something similar, coordinated by the boys themselves and their friends (FYI… they don’t really sleep, it’s just an excuse to have friends stay over all night so they can extend the movie watching/game playing hours as late as possible, simultaneously making the next day totally unbearable for everyone involved, particularly the parents).
While I do have to mentally prepare myself a little to have anywhere from four to six teenage boys in the house for the night (the secret to success: plenty of food, and an ignorance of the wrestling, mini stick games, and occasional curse word that slips out), I’ve long been an advocate of the at-home birthday party, and I’m going to put myself on an unofficial mission to bring it back when my it’s time for our third child to have his yearly bash with friends.
There is no right or wrong way to throw a birthday celebration, but in the almost fifteen years since I’ve become a parent it’s practically become a competitive sport (it isn’t), even though less is definitely more when it comes to kids and parties (trust me). Instead, I say, bring back the traditional party menu, basic birthday cake, handmade decorations, and games that are only limited by that which can be imagined. If you put your focus on where your strengths lie, hosting a bunch of kids will be easy and enjoyable. For example, if you are more interested in assembling handmade decorations than baking a birthday cake, don’t hesitate to let someone else supply the sweet treats for you for goodness sake. After all, assuming the average parent has two children, they will likely be responsible for hosting/arranging more than 30 birthday parties for their children over the course of their childhood, and you certainly don’t want it to be a source of stress at any time.
Here’s what our party plan has looked like over the years, in case you’re looking for a guide for yourself:
Ages 1-4: Family dinner party only (parents, siblings, grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins, maybe a few close family friends)
Ages 5-12: Family dinner party (see above), and a friends-only celebration
Ages 13+: Family dinner party (see above) and kid-organized sleepover or home-based celebration
Jackson’s self-organized 13th birthday soiree is happening this Saturday. At the moment we have four 12-13 year olds sleeping over and the plan is to make a list of mom-approved movies for the night, stock the fridge full of snacks (more on this next week) and leave piles of blankets and pillows at the bottom of the stairs for the kids to help themselves to, when they decide they’re tired. Or in other words: prep everything in advance so the parents don’t have to really be a part of the party at all. Oh, the next few years are going to be fun, aren’t they?
So, since there’s no judging allowed here, I’m curious to know: what do birthday parties look like in your home?
P.S. The photos above were hung from balloons just like I did when Ben turned 13.