I wrote an earlier post listing many of the things I included in my daughter’s baby book. One thing I didn’t mention in that post was that I wrote descriptions of how we celebrated each of her first eight birthdays.
I reread those entries recently, looking for a hook for this blog post. My major take-away was how much we gathered as a family for those occasions. Extended family came to visit for all of my daughter’s birthdays until her fifth. My mother traveled halfway across the country for my daughter’s first, second, and fourth birthdays. My grandmother came for my daughter’s first, second, and fifth birthdays. And my in-laws were there for her first, second, and third.
Of course, it helped that her birthday was in mid-May—a delightful time for travel. (My poor son was born in February. Very few visits for his birthdays.)
My mother came to visit the year my daughter turned four. On the actual birthday, my mother and I took cupcakes (which I think my mother made) to my daughter’s preschool. My daughter wore a crown that said “Big 4 Year Old” on it, and, of course, we all sang before we ate.
The following Saturday, my daughter had her first non-family birthday party. I had a rule for my kids—no more than one guest for each year. So for my daughter’s fourth birthday, she got to invite four friends. The theme was ballerina bears. Hallmark made pink little-girl party goods with that theme, and I could get the company cafeteria to make a cake with that design. All my daughter really cared about was that there was pink. (In later years, she got pickier.)
Thank goodness for my mother, because five little girls were more than enough for me. (My son went to play with a neighbor friend, so at least we didn’t have the boys as well.)
All the girls had wands and party hats. I had several games planned, thinking each would take twenty minutes. The games were supposed to last an hour or more. As it turned out, each game took about ten minutes, and we were done with food and games within the first hour.
The girls happily played house in the basement for the rest of the party time, while my mother and I cleaned the kitchen.
And a good time was had by all.
My daughter’s parties continued every year through her eighth birthday. (I can’t remember much after then, and there was no more space in her baby book to record the details.)
That eighth birthday was also memorable, even without the baby book. There were only six girls—I don’t know what happened to my rule—but six was plenty. It was a sleepover. I may have limited her to six girls, because we didn’t have enough floor space for more in our basement rec room.
I had planned two crafts that I thought the girls would enjoy after they ate the pizza and ice cream cake. One craft was painting tote bags, and the other was making lanyards. They seemed easy enough for eight-year-olds, but both caused tears. The paint smudged, and the lanyards proved too complicated for some of the girls to braid.
We set the projects aside for them to deal with later at home, then switched to popcorn and videos much earlier than I had anticipated. But that meant I could go to bed at a reasonable hour. I remember getting up at least once in the night to go quiet things down, so I guess the girls had a good time.
I learned through these experiences that the best children’s parties retained their flexibility. Which meant I had to remain flexible as well. My husband still tells me I need to work on my flexibility.
It’s probably a good thing that my daughter is grown now and living halfway across the country, responsible for her own birthday celebrations. I’m not sure I have the stamina any more.
Today is her birthday (I won’t say her age). Happy Birthday, sweetie!
What do you remember about childhood birthday parties?