Kids Birthday Parties: How Much Is Too Much?


“How was the party?” my co-worker asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee.

I gave a tired smile. “It was fantastic. Exhausting, but fantastic.” In my 20s, asking about a party Monday morning meant something with far more alcohol and bad decisions. “I finished the tents in the nick of time. The kids had a blast.”

He shook his head. “How long did that take you?”

“Not very,” I said, sipping my tea. “After we got the boards cut, all I had to do was sew up the pockets, which only took about ten minutes. It was worth it, though, to have such amazing party favors for under ten bucks.”

He nodded. “But what about your time? How much did it cost in time?”

I laughed and walked to my desk, thinking about his question. I’ve written before that I tend to go overboard on my kids’ birthday parties. Being on a single mom’s budget, I have to do most of the work myself or enlist the aid of my sisters. I’m a bargain hunter and even before Pinterest took off, I prided myself on my ability to use a glue gun and glitter to create unique crafts. Late nights sewing Jedi robes or creating all the fixings for a tea party seem like nothing compared to the excitement and joy on my kids’ faces.

10175985_10152362451281323_8326343327907343057_nI feel pride that I can pull off an amazing party for around a hundred dollars. I get a deep sense of satisfaction in thinking outside the box and typical goody bag, sending party goers home with favors that not only reflect the tone of the party but will be used for years to come.

Even more, I love the memories I’m creating for my children. I know they’d be just as happy with balloons, a cake, ice cream, and little else, but I love the creative stretch it takes to throw them a party to be remembered. A therapist would say I’m overcompensating for a lack of parties in my childhood. My co-workers think I’m crazy. My friends probably agree. My ex thinks I go overboard and pushes me to dial it back a few notches.

In time, I most likely will. After all, too soon I’ll have teenagers who will scoff at the idea of a themed party. I figure I have maybe four more parties for my son – if I’m lucky – and probably six more for my daughter. After that, it will be sleepovers, pizzas, and video games. The treasure hunts and piñatas will be a thing of the past. My birthday party idea boards will start to gather dust and my focus will be redirected.

I see one of my biggest job as a mother is to be an architect of childhood memories. Perhaps I’m putting more weight on it than I should, but when I tuck my incredibly grateful children into bed and whisper the story of their birth into their ear, I can think of no other way to be.

My time? It’s worth the price of a memory.

Do you tend to go overboard with your children's birthday parties, too?