When the girls were in the baby-toddler "Blur" phase, I remember wondering what life would be like when I no longer had to spend my every waking moment preventing them from meeting a untimely and gruesome demise (spoiler alert: it's awesome). My girls both were cute little rascals when they were little beasts, but most of the time, I find it's a lot easier taking care of school-agers. For starters, not being held hostage to the twin terrors of potty training and naptime anymore gives me back several hours of my life each day. I like being able to tell the little goldbrickers that no, I'm not going to get them something they are perfectly capable of fetching for themselves because I'm busy lying on the couch like a beached whale being productive. And I love - not like, LOOOOOOVE - telling the kiddos to get their coats and shoes on and buckle themselves up in the car, instead of having to wrangle approximately 87 unshod and un-jacketed limbs into the medieval torture device that is a baby car seat. So, yeah, as much I miss snuggly-baby syndrome, and am prone to the occasional pang of nostalgia, overall? This is better.
As a public service to all of you still in the diaper-bag phase, I do want to alert you to the elements of Blur-dom that are superior to older childhood, so you can appreciate them while you have them. Dressing the girls to my own liking was pretty much awesome, but that only applies to half the population. More significantly, throwing birthday parties during the tiny tot years is a snap. Piece o' cake. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Or at least, it should be. And that's what I want to talk to you folks about in this post.
Seems like every time I visit the Book of Face, someone's posted pictures of a small child's birthday celebration that either was ripped straight from social media or aspires to be the next cause of Pinterest stress. If you use those posts as a gauge, no toddler's party is complete without a surfeit of food, drink, favors, and activities, all coordinated around a central theme that is also reflected in the guest of honor's outfit and presents. To this I say, STOP IT. STOP IT, ALL OF YOU.
Why do I speak so? Take it from someone with older kids, you have plenty - PUH. LEN. TEEEEE. - of years ahead of you when you'll have to figure out party themes, favors, foods, activities, and so forth - except that, unlike in past years, when the guest of honor wanted nothing more than a nap and a string of teething beads, you are going to have a full-fledged functioning human being with thoughts and opinions of his or her own to deal with. You will spend weeks locked in negotiations with titles such as, Friends: 25 Is Too Many; or, We Are Not Hiring An Elephant For A Circus Party, Your Cousin Will Do Card Tricks For Free. The flavor of the cake and frosting alone will be worth days of discussion. You will spend hours poring over guest lists, navigating dietary restrictions, and figuring out accommodations for a horde of hyperactive locusts who will eat your food, trash your house, rip through the activities in 5.7 seconds, and leave behind a trail of destroyed wrapping paper and overstimulated offspring. So why in the ding-dong hell would anyone voluntarily choose to engage in that same level of angst one moment earlier than absolutely necessary???
Let's look at this logically. Your one-year-old neither knows nor cares if you spend five hours handcrafting invitations using a die-cutter, glitter, and five different metallic-ink pens, so why not just pick up the phone and skip all that? When I look back at my kids' younger birthdays, the best one we had was India's second. The important-milestone pressure of the first birthday was over, and her ability to anticipate events in the future hadn't appeared yet. The birthday festivities consisted of having the grandparents over, giving the birthday girl some presents after her nap, and throwing something on the grill for dinner. No one (by which I mean me) had to run to Michael's seven times, no one (by which I mean India) suffered a nap-deprived meltdown, no one (by which I mean any of us) had to wear uncomfortable clothes, pretend to be thrilled by the prospect of a sing-along, be nice to a grabby-handed guest, or share. Of course, I felt horrendously guilty about being the slacker mom and resolved to have a big ole blow-out of a third birthday party, which was equally unnecessary and pointless, but most mom guilt is.
So what's the takeaway here? [Warren likes to ask this when I get a bit rambly.] [Not that that's a common occurrence, you understand; it's just within the realm of the possible.] Anyway, the lesson I hope you overachieving supermoms-in-training absorb is, recognize that your loving charge doesn't give a hoot about any of those things. Get on the Low-Stress Express and ride that sucker for as long as you can. Revel in the fact that you can slap together a supermarket cake and some party hats and call it good. Hell, you don't even have to get the kid a real gift - just wrap a toy he hasn't seen for awhile in crinkly paper and bubble wrap, and it's all good!! Soon enough you'll have to spend hours of your life weighing the merits of inside-laser-tag-arcade versus paint-your-own-pottery. And if anyone gets on your case about the meeeeemories, what about the meeeemories, offer to dress your kid in her most uncomfortable clothes, eat her weight in sugar and skip her nap, then send her home with your critic to get the full effect. Chances are you won't hear the same complaint twice.
P.S. That "they don't give a damn so why put yourself through it" argument against having birthday parties? The same arguments hold true for trick-or-treating with the very young. For the love of Pete, turn off the porch light so you can feed your kid a proper dinner, get him in his jammies at a reasonable hour, and go to bed at bedtime. You will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy your child's company when she's hyped up and miserable; no need to go looking for them.