Two Parties, Two Days, Too Much?

The price of creating birthday memories


What was I thinking? Both of my girls wee born in August and this year, my baby turned 7, my oldest, 11. A last-minute trip to New Jersey and three weeks of sleep-away camp gave us no other option but to have both parties in the same weekend. Naturally, they both want sleepovers. The baby wanted a swim party, the big one, Mall of America—both options being ones that made me want to pull my hair out. But you only turn 7 or 11 once, so I took a deep, cleansing, “mom breath” and started on the e-vites.

My friend Julia Knight was hosting the swimming/movie/sleepover party for six 7-year-olds at her home. Julia runs a global, multi-million dollar company. She called me last week and said this, “I need to have a conversation with my bank before the close of business, but Ruby’s party is really giving me anxiety, so can we talk about that first?” Really? What the hell is wrong with us that the bank is less stressful than making the decision between pizza or subs? (We went with pizza.)

I did have moments of sanity; I actually took calls on my show @wccoradio to find out if people remember or appreciate their childhood birthday parties… And it turns out, they do. Some folks remembered parties from many decades earlier and retold the stories of the day with vigor and gratitude. Tales of vomiting on rides at a local carnival, seeing Young Frankenstein in the theater, or having curlers in their hair at “come-as-you-are” parties from the 60’s filled the airwaves and made us all smile. I wish the parents who planned those parties could hear their now-grown children recall them fondly. The memories gave me the energy to push ahead with my “August 2014 Birthday Extravaganza Weekend” planning.

So the decorations and goody bags were purchased and assembled. The food and cake were ordered; the Costco run was done (thanks, Julia). The e-mails were sent with explicit instructions to Julia, to my ex-husband, to my ex-husband’s girlfriend, to my fiancée, and to my daughters about who, what, where, and when everything was to be picked up and delivered. I realize this sounds extreme, but as anyone who’s ever planned a tween (and almost-tween) birthday party knows, planning is crucial. (I only said I had ‘moments’ of sanity in this process.)

We swam, we ate pizza, we ate cake, we opened presents, we ate more cake, we slept too little, more cake, we journeyed to MOA, we rode the zipline, more cake, we watched a movie, we slept too little again, more cake. It was all accomplished in less than 48 hours, and we survived. Actually, not only did we survive, but two beautiful girls said to me on two separate occasions, “Mom, this was the best day ever.”

Maybe they won’t remember these parties, and that’s okay. They certainly won’t remember the presents, or the food, or the movie, but hopefully they’ll remember the feeling that their birthday was a day worth lots of mom’s time and energy planning. I’ve learned to measure my life in moments, and the moments of stress building up the moment of “best day ever” were totally worth it.