I admit it. I like Pinterest-worthy parties. I mean, I really like them.
The beauty. The order. The creativity. The perfection. The sparkle. The shine. They speak to me.
However, a Pinterest-worthy party has not been our reality this week here at This Odd House.
Yesterday, my favorite little girl turned six years old. And instead of throwing a Pinterest-worthy party, I went to Meijer at 4 a.m. to purchase crepe paper streamers and a bag of balloons and pink paper plates. The result was a moderately festive breakfast table and a light fixture that bears a vague resemblance to square jellyfish.
If you’ve known me for a while, you recognize that I was not always so cavalier in my party preparations. Oh, no.
When our son Daryl turned one, I went completely over-the-top in planning the event. I had waited so long to have a child, that his first birthday turned into, not only a celebration of Daryl, but also a commemoration of motherhood and adoption and family and all of life!
Three months before Daryl’s first birthday, I started to scour Pinterest and the internet for Classic Winnie-the-Pooh decoration ideas. We already had all of the Classic Pooh stuffed animals in his perfectly-decorated nursery. So to stage the birthday table, I added a special tablecloth and Classic Pooh paper products and new serving dishes. I was most excited about a red clay pot from Target that looked just like Pooh’s honey pot! There’s no telling how many red clay pots I surfed by to find exactly the right one.
I ordered professionally-designed Classic Pooh invitations and sent them out weeks ahead of time to nearly all of our friends and relations. I ordered a fancy, professionally-decorated Classic Pooh birthday cake. And I spent several stressful days before the party, cleaning and gardening and shopping and baking up a storm. Of course, I roped Peter into all of the preparations as well, while Daryl looked on from his ExerSaucer and drooled.
On the day of the party, our house was packed with people we love. I flitted around, greeting them and leading Pooh-themed party games and tending to all of the food and drinks.
When Daryl wasn’t napping, he was being passed from one admirer to the next, looking wide-eyed and overwhelmed. When it came time for the traditional cake-eating photo, he spit out the cake. He couldn’t have cared less about the mile-high mound of presents. He let Peter and me open every one, and it is probably generous to say that he ever played with even half of them.
After our last guest left our home, Peter and Daryl and I sat on the sofa for a minute to catch our breath. I remember feeling deeply touched and grateful for everyone who had come to celebrate with us. But I also remember feeling as if, in the midst of all the partying, I had lost touch with the little person I had intended to honor.
So, partly to curb my own crazy, and partly in an effort to celebrate our children in ways that are meaningful to them, a few years ago we started giving our kids a choice as to how they want to celebrate their birthdays. There are currently three options available to them.
Option 1: A big party, and small presents.
Option 2: A big family outing, and small presents.
Option 3: A family party, and big presents.
When Amelia chose option #3 this year, I was admittedly relieved. I’m not sure I had a big party in me this summer—especially not a Pinterest-worthy one.
For the past many weeks, though, we’ve talked about her birthday every day. She’s been making plans and floating proposals until, in the end, she knew exactly how she wanted her “family party and big presents” birthday to go.
She ordered pink decorations and yellow pancakes for breakfast, but we had to make the pancakes together. Then she wanted to pick out her presents herself, during a whole afternoon of shopping with me at the mall. She selected Chinese food for dinner, and she asked Daddy to make her a blue cake with pink frosting.
So that is exactly what happened yesterday.
Sure, when I was taping streamers to our light fixture in the wee hours of the morning, the little Pinterest perfectionist shame gremlin whispered in my ear a few times, “Really? Is this the best you can do?” But—point of growth—I didn’t pay him much attention.
Because my little six-year-old was thrilled with her birthday! She was thrilled because she had yellow pancakes and pink plates and a trip to the mall alone with Mom. But mostly I think she was thrilled because we took the time to hear her desires and see her face. Mostly I think it wasn’t the big presents she wanted after all. But rather, the undivided extra attention and the undistracted time.