One of my favourite parts about becoming a mum was the whole new world of party planning that opened up. As my own birthdays became less important and less celebrated, the birthdays of my children became indulgent, extravagant affairs.
With AJ, I knew that his first birthday was going to be huge, even before he was born. I remember looking back over photos of my own first birthday. There was my mum, glowing with happiness, holding a chubby little one year old me. Each photo was crowded with faces of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Even though I had no memories of this birthday, these photos sparked a sense of completeness and overwhelming love. I wanted AJ to have that. I wanted to have photos crowded with faces of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. I wanted him to have photos to look back on and know that his mother went to every possible effort to make his first birthday the most special it could be – shared by our whole family.
AJ’s first birthday came and went. The celebration was huge, extravagant and indulgent. It left me on a complete, overwhelming high. My aunties called the next day to say how fabulous the party had been and how much fun they had. Before I could even eat all the left over cake, my mind was already planning the celebration for his next birthday. By the time PJ came along, my birthday planning was a well-oiled machine. We celebrated with train parties, monkey parties, Wiggles parties, Spiderman parties, Dr. Seuss parties and parties at play centres hired for all seventy guests! It was a never ending cycle of plan, prepare, purchase and execute. The boys loved every minute of the attention. They loved every minute of the planning and anticipation. The parties were always lots of fun. The digital birthday albums I meticulously designed and printed afterwards captured all the faces and fun of the day.
Yet, last year, after PJ’s third birthday, as I sat eating the remains of his Dr. Seuss cake, something shifted. Staring out my kitchen window I felt completely exhausted just thinking about the next set of parties to plan. My feet were aching and my mind was heavy as the wheels started to turn once again; thinking of a theme, a new caterer, a new venue. Instead of the usual sense of excitement, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and a little sad. I started to realise that the bigger the birthday celebrations were becoming, the less significant they felt.
After a long, late-night conversation with hubby, a decision was made. The huge birthday celebrations of past years were not going to be repeated. We sat down and cut our standing guest list from seventy to thirty. The parties would be held at our home. There would only be six other children invited. No long, late night events. We would celebrate with lunch on a Sunday, with our closest family and friends. I felt like a weight had been lifted. I felt relief. Excitement.
With apprehension, the next morning, we explained the new birthday plans to the boys. To my complete surprise, they showed no signs of disappointment. If anything, they were just as excited as usual about their birthdays. They chattered away about what theme they were going to have and what games we could play. Right then, I sat back and realised that the wishes for huge extravagant birthday affairs were entirely my own.
Now don’t get me wrong – I still love to throw a great party and I am not about to send this well-oiled machine out to scrap. Two birthday parties are coming. Two very excited boys have chosen their theme. One very excited mummy (and a very helpful family) are planning and preparing. I can’t wait to see their faces on the day. I can’t wait to capture the memories.
Yet, when the candles are blown out on their cakes this year, I will be standing back. My boys deserve birthday wishes of their own.
How do you celebrate birthdays?
Can you guess our birthday themes?