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Today's Family Magazine

MOMMY CHRONICLES: Child birthday parties are a gift for both child and parents

By Stacy Turner

March is a big month in my house.  Aside from bringing in the much-anticipated season of spring, early March is when both my husband and youngest child celebrate their birthdays. While my husband gave up having birthday parties long before I met him, we’ve always made a big effort to make both of our girls’ birthdays special each year for as long as they’d let us.  In the weeks and days leading up to the big day, once the birthday girl had chosen her theme, I planned the festivities and procured the supplies. 

On the day of the event, my husband (AKA the fun guy) led the girls in games, frivolity, and general mayhem.  That’s when little girls would get dropped off in party dresses and colorful clothes, one by one, smiling and clutching birthday bags stuffed with colorful tissue paper.  They left a mountain of small shoes by the back door in a rush to coalesce around the birthday girl, giggling, laughing, and sliding across hardwood floors in sock-clad feet.  

Over the years, our version of March Madness has featured a gaggle of squealing girls eating lots of sugar, playing games, dancing, and running around the house like banshees.  The party themes changed from year to year based on their hobbies and interests.  A few memorable events brought together a gathering of princesses to an indoor beach party, complete with a sandcastle cake. Another event was an epic adventure with Dora, where Explorers wore backpacks and used flashlights and a map to find clues throughout the house.  One year gave would-be archaeologists the opportunity to escape a mummy’s tomb. 

As the years progressed, everyone in the family helped prepare for the big day.  For the Egyptian adventure, Dad worked together for days with the birthday girl to craft a sarcophagus out of a cardboard box, while big sis and I scoured the house for treasures worthy of the ancient king.  We even found a mummy soundtrack to set the mood as teams of girls worked to beat the clock and escape the tomb first.  Those events, while labor intensive, gave us something interesting to do during late winter; a time usually filled with mud and cold, gray weather.  It also provided the opportunity to investigate some of our daughters’ interests and get to know their friends better. 

In subsequent years, we took the show on the road, heading to a roller rink birthday bash one year, and to see the latest kid flick at a movie theater during another.  Once, we took the Minecraft-crazed group to an arcade so they could experience what video games looked and played like back in the day.  They were less than impressed with the graphic quality of games like Frogger and Q*bert, but enjoyed the large monitors and loud game sounds, especially Pac-Man. 

As is usually the case, as our daughters got older, our involvement in the festivities declined.  The shoes were still gathered at the back door, only in much larger sizes, and the young ladies still coalesced around the birthday girl full of giggles and excitement.  But afternoon parties full of games and prizes were replaced with sleepovers, where we provided little fanfare, but plenty of food, time, and space to themselves. There’s generally less running, and the squealing is much less frequent, too.  These events also differed from earlier events in that they begin later, last longer, and end quietly the next afternoon when sleep-deprived preteens (and now teens) in hoodies and rumpled pajama pants slip on their Crocs and head home to recover from what we refer to as the sleepover hangover. 

The older they get, the more they’re branching out and doing more and more on their own, which is exactly how it’s supposed to be. Now that our days of party planning are over, I’m glad we made the extra effort to share in their interests and make them feel special.  I realize now that those birthdays were as much of a gift to us as they were to our girls.  More than anything, I hope you and your family share in lots of happy birthdays, too.