Today, we have a birthday party to attend. And it's got me thinking about the drama of birthday parties.
Prior to going to school, birthday parties for friends wasn't ever a thing we worried about. The pre-4 or 5 year old set didn't so much do birthday parties. We kept our gatherings relatively small- immediately family and close friends, dinner out, cake, presents. We did decide to do Teagan's first friend party when she turned 5 last year. And she's been invited to countless parties for school friends ever since.
The first struggle when accepting an invite... what kind of gift do you buy? How much do you spend? I like the plan we've come up with. It takes a lot of the stress off of me and it's great for Teagan because she feels like she's a really important part of the process. Plus, she's learning to tune in to other people. For the week leading up to the party, I ask her to pay attention to what that child really likes at school. What play center do they like best? What characters do they talk about most? What movies or TV shows do you know they like? Then we take that info and decide on a gift from there. Teagan really likes art so we tend to favor buying coloring books and new crayons or markers or a cool craft kit. Gift issue settled.
Next struggle... what about Zach? He's only 3 and the kids in his class aren't doing the friend party thing yet (thank goodness). So he has to sit and watch as Big Sis gets to go off and have fun without him. For the most part, we have this one solved. One parent takes Big Sis to the party and the other has a special date with Zach- we've taken him to Conner Prairie, out for ice cream, or to the library. This last party was a little harder for him because it was a party for the big sister of one of his classmates that he's good friends with. Teagan is good friends with A and Zach is good friends with A's little sister. So it was a little harder for him this time because he understood who the people involved were.
We are very excited for today because BOTH kids were invited to a little girl's party! This part I love best of all. And it's made me realize that when we have a friend party for one kid or the other, letting the sibling invite a friend of their own is important.
Next struggle... Teagan has that independent side to her that we love (even when it frustrates us). A few parties ago, she started asking me to leave the party. She didn't want to have a parent hovering over her. The first time, it was perfect because it was at this amazing fitness center so I stayed with the group while they were in the pool (Teagan's not a swimmer) but when they went to open gym time, I headed to the little cafe and had a sandwich and read the paper with my feet up! Another time, it worked out perfectly because Jeff was out of town or had to work or soemthing so I had both kids. Dropping her off and coming back to get her worked out well because I needed to be with Zach while she partied down. I have to say, though, that I always check with the parents and make sure they have my cell number. I also make sure I'm aware of what other parents I know are there so I have someone I can be in touch with if needed. I've been at parties where a kid gets sick and no one has a way of reaching a parent who has left and it's a hard situation.
Next struggle... and this is the one I wrestle with the most...
Teagan had that friend party last year. I had kind of set it in my head that we wouldn't be doing friend parties every year. That we would save the friend parties for "big" birthdays like 5 and 8 and 10 and 13 and 16 or something. But... Teagan has been going to lots of friend parties for her classmates this year and I know she's kind of expecting to have something similar for her birthday in a couple of months. Now is the time to start planning. I do not want to set some sort of precedent that we will be inviting 10 or 20 kids to a birthday party every year. So I'm trying to think of a smaller party we can do with just a couple of her closest friends and making sure she understand that we only get to do something special like this if she doesn't talk about it at school so that kids who aren't invited get their feelings hurt.
But I'm kind of stumped for ideas on what a smaller party would be- so please feel free to share ideas!
And now that Zach is in school, when is he going to start getting invited to parties? Can we hold out for a friend party until he turns 5? What kind of message am I sending him if he gets to invite 1 friend to Teagan's birthday?
Share with me, please, your favorite parties you've had for your kids or heard about. Share your own birthday party memories. And help me navigate through all the politics of invites and gifts and siblings!