A Non Pinterest worthy birthday fit for a Princess

I was going to do a photo brag-book style post about my birthday girl,
but I kind of did that in my last post.
In an attempt to be less redundant and more useful I will throw in a little birthday advice from a professional   mediocre party pooper  planner.

First of all my daughter is amazing, beautiful and delightful. 
There is just something about four year old girls that make you want to cling tightly to what's left of their "little girl" phase.  
The princess dresses, tu-tus and rubberboots will only be a faint memory in a few more years.

I want her to feel loved and valued and birthday's are a great time to really make a child feel special. 

That being said...
I suck at everything else that goes along with birthdays.
I have to admit it.
I have gone through phases where I try really really hard not to be a lame birthday planner but I find birthday parties exhausting, unenjoyable, expensive, and irritating. 

I've pulled off some pretty awesome cakes and stellar parties...
but they almost kill me.  Seriously. 

Even at my best, my kids parties are super lamo compared to others I see on Pinterest, Facebook or  friends parties.

I've decided to be ok with that.  
I don't envy their skills, begrudge them amazing parties, or feel any sort desire to try to keep up.

My children seem to be ok with that too.

I know she looks terribly deprived and miserable in these photos but trust me when I say that she was over the moon elated, and basking in her own glory, the whole day.  

From the  $10 birthday gift from Mom and Dad.

to the $5 video from her siblings.

to the super cute rubber boots from Grandma and Grandpa, 
and her fu-fu Walmart "birthday dress".

(...and a book)

She was thrilled, ecstatic, and reveled in each moment as she tore open wrapping paper in sheer delight.

She cherished each item.

How, do you ask, does a child who has no friends attending...no goodie bags...no games...no ponies or clowns or bouncy houses...and a really lamo cake... react with such joy?

Well personality might have something to do with it...
but expectations are the key.

I have a running joke with my husband that we succeeded in keeping and meeting their low expectations.
Then we high five each other after each mediocre party met with excitement and elation.

If every holiday is an over the top event filled with gluttony and consumerism...you have to keep adding more and more to impress your child.  In the end you set yourself for failure and you child for disappointment.
Even worse, chronic discontentment and greed.

I'm going to admit a few things to you.  I deprive my children in a few key areas.

My kids don't get "Easter baskets" at Easter.  
No, I don't have a moral problem with them or parents giving them...I just don't think my kids need a basket full of crap in order to honor the significance of the occasion.  Also, they cost a lot of money to fill.  I despise the store isles filled with festive junk months before every "holiday". It's a big money making scam. Even if I had wads of money I don't think I could will myself to wade through the pastel piles. 
 Of course I could make and design all kinds of inexpensive, meaningful gifts to give to them in a basket...but..
Ain't nobody got time for that.
I'm content in my cynicism.

My kids don't get Valentine's gifts.
We may or may not bake cookies, depending on my mood and our location on that day. Period.  The end.
If my daughter receives a red rose from her Daddy, or they get a special chocolate treat...it will be just that.  A special treat given out of love.  Not an obligatory purchase because the calender tells me I must.

We rarely ever have dessert in our home and I generally only buy icecream for birthdays.
When a birthday rolls around (which happens 7 times per year) just having cake and icecream is a big deal.
This year I found "birthday cake" icecream.  It's blue and white and has sprinkles in it.  To top it off the container has pictures of candles and birthday festivities on it!  It's super gross and the kids love it. Nothing says "party" like blue icecream.

I'm telling you friends, it's all in the build up.  
I put a $4 box of "birthday cake" icecream in the freezer, the kids look at it longingly for a few days, and by the time the party rolls around it's a pot of gold.  Pure, it only cost me $4, gold.  

My budget for each kid this Christmas was $40.  
When you multiply that by five, it adds up. It's still a significant chunk of cash considering that's what a field worker in Baja makes in about four long days of work, and considering that our house is already filled with toys that don't get played with.
Each child had one gift from us, some small gifts purchased (or made) by siblings, and a few little stocking stuffers.
(and not every gift was new, or reached the $ limit)
and no we don't "do Santa".

The part that might surprise you is that my kids were super stoked and very grateful the entire day.  
It was enjoyable.

We generally keep birthdays simple.
I've worked hard to make the occasional birthday something memorable and set aside my own disdain for party planning to make my resident party planner (Aili) feel loved.  Occasionally I have packed my home with rambunctious children that are not my own in an attempt to create "fun"...
but for the most part our birthdays are a special family supper at home that includes cake and icecream for dessert and a few gifts.
Quite often Grandma and Grandpa are the only guests.

This year Silas' birthday fell in the middle of a kitchen remodel.  
He got donuts, corn dogs and a movie on our TV.

Cece's birthday came only days after our return from Baja.
Hello exhaustion, unpacking and general re-entry chaos.

This was all I could muster.

A cake-mix, hot dogs, and a Minnie Mouse table cloth.
She LOVED it.
The whole day she pranced around in her special "birthday girl" dress, 
she served her cake to her siblings and grandparents,
and she soaked up every "Happy Birthday".

Here's another lazy mom hint.  A gift can double as a cake decoration.  
Which also provides a distraction from the sprinkles gone wrong.

Minne Mouse was on the table, 
and there are yellow streamers hanging from the ceiling (thanks to big sister who loves to decorate) so it must be a party.

Someday she might look back and think some of her birthday parties were slightly lame, and eventually she may wonder where the bouncy castle and ponies are....but  right now she feels adored.

I suspect she'll remember feeling treasured longer than she will her party decorations from her fourth birthday.

Bottom line is, 
if you want kids to be content with less stuff....
give them less stuff. 

Everything about our society tells our kids that they are little gods.  

Our culture tells them that their value is determined by what they have, and that love can be bought.
It's engrained into them early on that their happiness and pleasure is of utmost importance...and they are entitled to anything that will serve that end.

Phooey on that.

Bah humbug, as it were. 

I used to be slightly embarrassed by my kids wearing hand me down clothes, 
and their $10 budget birthday parties.  
but not anymore.  

I'm so over it that I thought I'd share my tricks of the trade in keeping my kids expectations nice and low, because there is just something very freeing about having children who get super excited over "treats" like a Walmart dress and icecream.


Anonymous said...

You are to funny. I have struggled with parties too. I feel just the way you described. I felt like I was just a terrible lazy person because all of my friends joyfully throw lavish parties. But I think the root of my irritation is knowing deep inside that it is a complete waste. They enjoy their party no more if I kill myself making and baking for it. Again and again I find, the more I give to them the unhappier they are.

Jenn @Treasuring Lifes Blessings said...

You are a woman after my own heart!! A hearty AMEN to this post!!!! I don't know if I even spent $40 per kid this last Christmas on gifts but I'll tell ya, the things they got they were over the moon on! I am the same as you with other holidays, birthdays, etc. I could give my kids a gift I found at a yard sale and they would jump for joy! I spend $.50 on a special thing found at the reuzit store and they are hugging the crap out of me. Yup, our kids are deprived. ;) lol Loved this post and the adorable pics!

Sherri Davidson said...

We do spend a little more. But we keep it down to 4 gifts per child. Plus stocking gifts. and the stocking gifts are things like toothbrush and paste, shampoo, underwear, socks, hair ponies, etc... I didn't realize how much my kids enjoyed them until this winter with everything happening and now that the boys are out I bought the stockings a bit differently. They all complained. It really is the simple easy things they love the most. Sarah's birthday was on the 12th and I took her shopping instead of buying ahead. We picked out new shoes and was over the moon excited for them. No party and she choose to attend youth group.

amy agar said...

Amen sister amen!!