Kids’ birthday parties: how to do it without stress and angst

birthday balloons

Flora is hosting a birthday party sleep-over extravaganza for 12 little girls. They’re about to descend on the house in, oh, 45 minutes. I’m sitting on the couch, legs up, drinking coffee (yes, it’s laced), eating chocolate, and chilling by writing this post.

Here’s why.

The little girls are coming to have fun, eat hot dogs, cake and pop-corn, watch a movie, and snuggle in sleeping bags on my living room floor to celebrate Flora’s eighth birthday and their special relationship with her.

They are not coming to inspect the cleanliness and order of my house.

They are not coming to do a 45-minute craft that requires three days of pre-planning and pre-cutting.

They are not coming to enjoy themed hors d’oeuvres or a fancy meal.

They are coming to play and love Flora.

And so, I chill.

Our day, in preparation for the party, looks like this:

Each of us spends the morning doing our usual chill thing. Cinder and Flora play Minecraft. Ender destroys the living room (aka plays Lego, trains, straws and connectors and strews poppy seeds and bread crumbs everywhere). Sean reads a book. I hang with friends on Facebook and catch up on the blogosphere and poke around on Twitter. We eat breakfast. Chill some more.

Post-shower, as a nod to the sensitivities of little girls, I give the bathroom a pretty thorough clean and instruct Cinder not to pee for the remainder of the day. I back off when he threatens to pee off the balcony instead.

The day unfolds as a lazy Saturday should (Sean and I hide upstairs for a while to, um, “talk,” because you know, that won’t happen at night). After we eat lunch, I give the kitchen a fairly thoroughly clean—wash all the dishes and put them away, sweep the floor (I don’t even thinking about mopping it, because I will have 14 kids eating ice cream cake, chips and pop-corn in the house all day).

At about 2:30, Sean takes Flora and Ender on the crucial pre-party errands—to pick up the cake (outsource what you suck at and don’t enjoy is one of my life maxims) and a new pack of markers and cardboard masks that Flora decides she needs to have for the party.

As soon as they leave, I nap. Oh, yes. A delicious twenty-minute, no-three-year-old in the house nap.

Then, finally, I spring into action. With Cinder’s help, I de-Ender the living room (trains, Lego and straws-and-connectors into their bins. Big sweep of the floor, thoroughly covered with all manner of crap. Rejig of the furniture to create the “camp-out” space Flora wants.

I leave Cinder in charge of putting up the streamers (Flora asked him to do it, “because you’re so good at it, Brother!”), and go to prep the entry way.

Here’s what I don’t do: I don’t take away our five pairs of snow pants, snow suits, mitts, gloves, boots etc. etc. etc. I just make sure all of our shoes are on the shelf, so there’s plenty of room for 12 additional little pairs of boots, and there’s a space to deposit 12 coats and mitts. I do sweep—entry ways are foul things, are they not?—and I do briefly ponder mopping—it really needs it—but then I come to my senses. Each of those little girls will be wearing snow boots covered in snow and mud, and will take them off in the entry way and drip crud all over. Let it be, let it be. I clean after. (Maybe.)

And I’m pretty much done. I go up to the kitchen, and put the requisite bowl of chips on the table (I do fancy out and plop a table cloth under it—this ensures I don’t have to thoroughly scrape the kitchen table that triples as craft-table and science lab). Add a plate of carrots, pears, and oranges. A cutting board with cheese. Put the hot dogs, buns, and ketchup beside the stove.

Pour myself a cup of coffee… and go put my feet up.

It’s going to be a pretty crazy, intense night. I will have to facilitate, redirect, soothe. Keep the Ender amused and non-destructive. Ensure everyone feels welcome, included, safe and loved.

I’m not going to set myself up for stress and failure by exhausting myself before it comes.

I’m not throwing this party to impress Flora’s parents’ friends—or Flora’s friends.

I’m throwing this party because I love Flora and it’s what she wants.

And her friends, they are all coming only to play and love and celebrate Flora.

And so, I chill.

Although… with guests due to arrive in 10 minutes, I should probably go put on some pants.



(January 12, 2013, 4:45 p.m.)

(Photo credit via Zemanta: jessica wilson {jek in the box})

P.S. I’m hopping at You Know It Happens At Your House Too’s Don’t Be a Bloghole Hop over the next few days. Link up with me!

14 thoughts on “Kids’ birthday parties: how to do it without stress and angst

  1. Jane, this was great and loved how relaxed you were even though 12 little girls were about to take over and run the show for a bit. Happy Birthday to Flora and hope she had a wonderful party!!

  2. I love it! We do low key birthdays at our place too. I don’t rent anything, there aren’t any themes or decorations (except for the time I got the left-over helium filled balloon bouquets from an event at work), and the food is completely unimpressive. That way everyone’s happy!

  3. So great Jane! I love that you “fancied out and plopped a tablecloth on the table!!” So I’m dying to hear how that went with that many girls in attendance! My daughter’s 8th birthday is coming up….Do I have a sleepover or just keep it an afternoon soiree?

    • It went great–they did all fall asleep about 12:30. The next day, of course, was a write-off for all involved (I stayed in bed all day too!). I’m not a huge fan of sleep-overs in the first place–there’s just no way to do them without them ruining the next day for a child who likes her sleep, right?–so if a sleep-over isn’t a total necessity for your 8 y o just do the afternoon! But, as a once-a-year extravaganza… she’s still talking about it as the best birthday party ever. 🙂

      • Oh I bet!! We’ve only done the one on one sleepovers and those are enough to cause the next day to be miserable but taking on 12 girls??? Holy Cow! I’m glad to hear there was no drama and tears…I’m sure that only comes when they’re in middle school!

  4. Wow, the next time I host a kids’ birthday party, I’m having you over to prepare…I recently wrote a post about birthday parties and how they stress me out SO MUCH. You’ve definitely got the right attitude.

  5. Cheers to you and your laced coffee….and your lack of pants! Your attitude is refreshing as always, and many moms could learn a lot from you. Thanks for sharing such a grounded perspective with us! I hope it was fabulous!

  6. I love, love, love your party attitude! I just threw a sleepover for my 6 year old and for the first time EVER I didn’t make myself and everyone else around me crazy with cleaning and planning and worrying about how the house looks. I think I may finally be making progress in this area! I hope she had a wonderful party and that you continued to enjoy yourself and remain relaxed. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Quote This: Galileo on knowledge from within | Undogmatic Unschoolers

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