Yesterday was my daughter’s fourth birthday.We decided to have a simple birthday party at the house, with friends and family and a few of her friends from school. And it was pretty simple. I asked her a while back what sort of party she wanted to have. “Pink and purple and race cars”.
That bundt cake on the left was my own creation. I thought, “I have fancy pans that can make a cake look like a rose! How hard can it be?” Then this happened.
Fortunately, we had a second box of mix.
When I say that we had a simple party, I really do mean it. Our decorations were balloons and a plastic tablecloth. The plates didn’t match the napkins, and neither matched the cups. We used what we had, because the last thing we needed another year’s worth of leftover party supplies.
We didn’t have a bounce house or an organized activity. No super awesome balloon animal guy (although we do know of one, and he can make ANYTHING out of balloons) or magician or science demonstration. We served pizza, pizza rolls (best appetizer EVER), candy, chips and crackers and veggies with dips, and the cake and cupcakes came from the grocery store. There was beer and wine, which I have decided are utterly acceptable at children’s birthday parties.
I usually wear myself out in the days before Boo’s birthday party, worrying about whether the day will be perfect, will everybody have a good time, will they think I’m lame, will their children destroy the house, and on and on. I’m a classic, textbook introvert, and when too much is happening, I get overloaded.
This year, Mr Incredible actually commented on my lack of freaking out. I was remarkably calm, to the point of even taking the time to get myself ready before people arrived (I’ve been known to be the one non-impeccable thing at events that we host, because I’m too worn out to fix myself).
I finally figured out what made this year different. This year, I didn’t try to put on a show. Yesterday was, start to finish, quintessentially us. We’re not fancy people. But we’re a boatload of fun and freaking hilarious, and we have managed to surround ourselves with others who are also boatloads of fun and freaking hilarious. And our kid? Shoot, her friends and their families? FUN AND HILARIOUS. And that’s why yesterday was so awesome. I let go of what I thought my daughter’s birthday party SHOULD be and I just let it happen.
There was this moment after the cake and presents had happened, when all of the adults were just hanging out and all of the kids were tearing up and down the stairs like maniacs (there was stair diving, which was at once exhilarating and terrifying to watch) and the boys started stomping on balloons and the girls were squealing, and I felt like Mary Steenburgen in Parenthood.
This morning, the house looked like Jake Ryan’s house in Sixteen Candles
It looked like a bomb had dropped. Toys everywhere, kitchen counters piled two feet high, just chaos. It took about 4 hours to get it back to normal. Totally worth it. As much pride as I take in having a nice clean house, I felt like the Champion Of All Mothers because my kid got to have a blast with her friends on her birthday. There was no fussing about the mess, no “now now you’re getting too rambunctious, something’s going to get broken” (although we did calm them down occasionally for purely safety reasons). Nothing broke. There were a few bumps and bruises, as should be expected when you’re popping balloons with your bottom on a tile floor. The kids and the adults had a good time, and so did I.
I’ve come to appreciate the value of just letting stuff happen. Because stuff’s going to happen whether you bust yourself trying to orchestrate it or not. I decided to enjoy the day, and that made it possible for everybody else to enjoy it as well.