at some point, birthday’s begin to require a philosophy. i’d say it’s around the same point that pinterest starts to become hilarious. ha. in a million years baby. so i have begun to streamline birthdays a bit. and when i don’t, i’m reminded of why we’re not doing that ever again. and even with a little standardization, a birthday is still a lot of work. so much so that you ultimately have to decide if it’s worth it. and when the dust settled, i couldn’t help but think that it was.
it seemed to me that it was worth it precisely because it was work. i was thinking of all the things jael did with me; we made the guest list, she helped plan the menu, we went to the store together, picked out thank-you notes, then we baked cupcakes, cleaned the house, hosed the road grime off the front patio, had talks about how to receive gifts and greet people, we set the tables, hauled down the china, and eventually washed the china and put it all back up again. later we itemized all of her gifts and she dictated and signed thank-you notes. holy pain in the duff. but it is better to give than to receive. he who sows sparingly, reaps sparingly. and when it comes to partying, to fellowship, and to hospitality, i think it’s always better to die trying. it’s a good work, and i want her to be good at it.
the problem is that after having several children, it’s tempting to look for the easy way out. it’s probably more of a necessity than an option. but i think it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of birthdays as an obligation to be gotten over with. as something we have to do. when they only happened twice a year it was kind of fun. now it’s more like, “good lord, not again.” it becomes harder to reconcile all the excess with all of the other things on my plate and easier to say, “here, have a cupcake.” i was wondering if doing this was a good use of my time and money, or if i was just trying to keep up with everyone else. but i realized that a birthday is not just an annual commercial hoop i’m obliged to jump through – it doesn’t have to be something that i pay a lot of money for and then give it to her like another present. rather, it’s a chance for her to grow, to be the host, and more importantly, for her to be the one giving herself away. in the end i thought it was the most educational thing she had done all year. and we almost didn’t do it.
perhaps the easiest way to dump some birthday baggage is to simply let go of the idea that it has to be themed. you can’t just say you’re having a “rapunzel” birthday. no, you have to make a rapunzel cake, buy rapunzel plates, rapunzel gift bags and stickers, dress everyone in purple, and the next thing you know you’re weaving floor length wigs out of yarn for all of the toddlers and have been to six stores. it’s a slippery slope to hell. that’s what. not that it’s bad, but you don’t want it to jump out and get you. if you want to plan an amazing birthday, good for you. but if you have 22 under your belt already, it’s time to come up with some tricks. one of my friends with eight children has sworn off birthday parties all together. they keep it in-house. she says her kids are happier and more contented that way anyways. she got to the point where she was like, “oh yeah, who said i had to have 15 kids over, with a clown, a pony, pool, pinata and a melt-down? right, that’s what i thought.” pinterest and 1.5 kid households set a high standard. it’s easy to start to feel guilty or overwhelmed, or for things to get out of hand in our efforts to bless our children. and in the end, maybe they aren’t as blessed as we thought.
so my plan is to just pick one thing and stick with it. tea parties for the girls and potluck “feasts” for the boys. and i’m going to make them work for them. when birthdays sneak up on me at least i’ll know the drill and the kids will too. i won’t have to be thinking about it months in advance, trying to come up with something “new.” i won’t have to buy extra stuff for every birthday, or even run extra errands. (when you homeschool and have five kids, your worst fear is having to leave the house.) even better, i won’t feel like i have to cut back on my guest list. we love inviting everybody.
so we’re not going to give up, or slow down, we’re just going to try and keep it real. for instance, this is the bunting jael helped me sew from our stash of great-grandma’s hankies. we have enough left over even for every girl to make her own. we kept the eye-hooks in the wall so they will hang back up in a jiff. add that to the flowers daddy gets them for their birthdays, and what more do we need? well, besides food. but that’s the best part. i’m very much looking forward to all the birthday girl bake-days in the future, doomed petit fours and all. as for the boys, i’ve been longing for a set of pewter “man” dishes. just imagine a saw-horse table in the back yard, covered with food and goblets, surrounded by all of our family and friends, next to a roaring fire. i also want to include a hike of some kind. because what’s more fun than a raucous and badly chaperoned posse tearing up the foothills at twilight, only to be eventually silenced by marshmallows? um, nothing? right.