I hate to admit it, but I can’t stand throwing birthday parties for my daughters. Not because of the expense or the effort. Not because I overdo the details and wear myself out. I am by no means a Pinterest mom, and am instead much more of a Pinterest fail mom. So I don’t even attempt the epic birthday parties that look as if a professional planned and threw them. I respect the moms that can pull that off – but I know my limitations. So our parties are fun for my girls and their friends, and go off without a hitch. But they are also utterly forgettable.
Birthdays were always more like holidays in my family when I was growing up. We love to celebrate each other, and my husband and I have taken this same approach with our own family.
But the parties? Those are stressful.
I don’t get time with our guests and I don’t get time with my children. I’m usually cutting a cake while my girls are opening gifts. I miss the entire thing by sweating the execution. I spend weeks planning and making sure I have all the details covered before and after the party, which doesn’t let me focus on the true reason for the celebration – my daughter – which is far more important than picking the perfect party favors and selecting the right decorations.
About a year ago, I read a great blog from a mom who decided to skip the party. Her alternative? She took her son and his friend out of town, stayed in a great hotel, had a celebration at the hotel, and even got the staff involved in making sure the trip was special for her son. I was telling my husband what I’d read, and my six year old daughter chimed in with “That’s cool mommy! I want to do that when I turn seven!”
Oh. My. God. I may have just gotten the last confirmation I needed. I may be done with parties!
This year, my husband I decided to try for an experience as a family instead of a party for both girls. We will have our usual big family celebrations on their actual birthdays, but we felt pretty confident that we could pull off a great trip in lieu of an elaborate, stressful, hardly memorable birthday party.
It actually worked out pretty perfectly. My husband, who travels regularly for work, was going to Atlanta during part of our Spring Break week, and our Octonauts-loving daughters found out that the Georgia Aquarium has whale sharks. That was all they needed to know to fall in love with the idea of taking a trip. So, we decided to take our daughters to Atlanta to celebrate both of their birthdays, rather than having a party for each of them.
I packed up an arsenal of snacks, DVDs for the portable player, books, toys, etc. to get through a 3+ hour drive alone with my girls to meet my husband in Atlanta after his work week was done, and we spent three days out of town together.
On our first night, we ordered room service for dinner, decorated the hotel room, and even had a birthday cake for my daughters. They absolutely loved it.
On our second day there, we visited the Georgia Aquarium. It was amazing. We all had a great time – even though our 3-year-old threw an absolutely epic, head-turning tantrum for about thirty solid minutes. My husband got more than a few sideways glances from strangers who seemed to think he may be kidnapping the screaming threenager, who was shouting for help and thrashing around while her remarkably calm father attempted to hold her hand or carry her. It was still a blast. The sweet, mesmerized looks on my daughters’ faces as they explored and were face-to-face with some of their favorite animals were priceless.
Before we came home the next day, we had a couple hours to swim in the indoor pool at the hotel. Even the ride home was fun, which is usually not the case with my children when we travel. It was, for the most part, pretty perfect.
What I love most about the choice we made, is that we were able to spend so much time together. We got to stretch out over three days something that a party only gives us for a few hours (and for about the same expense as two parties). Our girls couldn’t wait to tell their grandparents and aunt and uncle what they saw and got to do.
And I got to be present. I was able to experience everything alongside them, rather than watching over my shoulder while playing host and cutting cake. It was far more memorable than any party we have ever thrown for them, and they seemed to enjoy it much more. They’re certainly talking about it more than any past party.
I’ll admit that leading up to our trip, I sometimes wondered if I was making the right choice. I must have asked my girls about ten times if they were sure they wanted a trip rather than a party, but they never hesitated to give the same answer. So next year, we’ll ask our daughters again if they would prefer parties or a trip – but I know what I hope they choose.