Thursday, March 8, 2012

Birthday Parties

We are about to go to our third kids' birthday party in three weeks and Sabine is only two and a half. I used to think we'd enter this phase much, much later--like when she's in school.

But apparently, the party going and having starts a lot earlier than I thought. Note, we did have a first birthday party for Sabine because, well, it was her first and so many of our friends and family wanted to celebrate. However, when she turned two, I tried to skip it. I don't want her to expect or feel like she needs a big party ever single year. Dude, that's a lot of parties. And those parties usually require a lot of organizing and stress and preparation and time and material things rather than just doing something a little special that lets you really be with your kid and squish them and tell them how much you love them.

As I grew up and celebrated my own birthdays, my mom would make my favorite meal for dinner and a cake for dessert. She would bring cupcakes to my school (if I was in school) and my parents would buy me no more than two presents. I never remember thinking that it wasn't enough or that I'd been cheated. I remember loving it and feeling happy and lucky on that day.

For Sabine's non-birthday-party second birthday, I tried to have a little be enough but still found myself at a small party. It was just extended family, but a party nonetheless. My in-laws have made a habit out of visiting each year on her birthday so we'd planned to gather at their rental house to have dinner on that day. Once my sisters found out, they wanted to be there, too. Kadin grilled a ton of food and we bought a giant ice cream cake to accommodate everyone. And many balloons, streamers, signs and presents later, we found ourselves at a party.

Now that Sabine is two and a half and has been to plenty of parties, she loves them. A lot. And as we plan to head to another party this weekend, I can't help but think about what I'm going to do when she turns three. I'd like to continue to at least try and teach that a little can be enough and that sometimes, it's even more or better. But again, that's increasingly hard to do these days--especially when we go to these parties and watch the gift opening portion of the program. We never buy huge or multiple gifts when we give to Sabine or any other child because we see how much they already have; how much they don't play with their own toys; and how little storage space people have to house these toys. And, when a child receives so much in one sitting, they can't focus on any one or few things because they're so overwhelmed by sheer volume that they can't think or feel straight.

The gift we gave at our last party was a sparkly princess tiara, a floral top and an ice cream coupon (for one free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery). Sabine made the card--an abstract toddler scribble on white paper, where I wrote a simple message as directed by tiny monster and her color choices. I rolled the paper into a scroll and tied it with a ribbon. Sabine carried the present around for days and was beside herself with joy at the thought of giving it to her friend. But once we were at the party and I saw what other people gave--multiple outfits or outfits and toys, wrapped in big boxes with fancy cards, I started to wonder if a little is enough.

How can I teach Sabine that you don't have to have a big party to feel special and have fun when there are so many parties to go to? And how in the world can I teach her that to revel in a few things is so much more beautiful and satisfying than going hog wild with too many things when we watch birthday girls open presents that are much more extravagant than the one we gave?


foleydog said...

I too find myself going to another party this weekend. My LO went from not noticing parties - to loving them. He has now added 'Happy Birthday' to his song repitoire. So far, I've never had a party for him (he's 25 mos., now). I've been wondering myself how long it'll be before he notices he's never had one. They were a very small deal when I was a child - but living among folks with a lot of time and money, I hope that at least in my family, they can be that way for him to.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, you just tell them. You say too much stuff is not good because you can't appreciate it and it's a waste. You talk about how things cost money and that you can't buy everything you like. You just dont' follow the herd. Look at the herd and ask if that is what you want for your daughter.


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