When Gabriel was about 18 months old, I got together with a group of my friends from college. Several of us had children within a few months of each other, so there was a lot of talk that weekend about how life had changed and what we had to look forward to as our children grew. One friend who had older brothers told us about a recent birthday party she’d attended that involved pony rides, a cowboy, and goodie bags that cost roughly $20 a pop. We all howled about how ridiculous that was and about how we’d never, ever, ever do that.
The kids’ first few birthday parties held true to my proclamation. But that’s easy in Boulder County, where dressing up often meant pulling on the new Icebreaker or Mountain Hardware hoody and putting on the dressy jeans that weren’t frayed at the bottom from wearing them with flip-flops. Birthday parties there usually involved playing out in the back yard and oodles of home-made whole-wheat cupcakes, with a few gluten/dairy/soy/corn/nut free ones for the children with food sensitivities. Favors I offered in the past included little pots filled with dirt and basil seeds, home-made play dough, and little bouquets of natural dye-free lollipops.
Fast-forward to 2011. We live in a flat in downtown Helsinki. The weather is too damp and dreary for a park birthday party. Having all 20 children from Gabriel’s class to our house would not only be a tight fit, but likely a complete disaster involving gray hairs, glass breakage, and shouting (not just from the children). And so we’re two hours away from the birthday party I said I’d never have, at a local indoor play place, complete with Pirate-themed goody-bags (thankfully less than $20 a piece!). There are no pony rides or hired clowns/cowboys in the plans, but the event is still going to cost roughly a month’s car payment and certainly more than any of the adult parties we’ve thrown (although Matt & I are now conspiring to have one, just to see what we can do with that sort of budget!).
I think the party will be a blast–two of Gabriel’s friends had their birthday party there last month and everyone had a really good time, came home exhausted, and talked about it at school all the next week. Gabriel is so excited about turning seven this year, and has to deal with so much since his last backyard birthday party in Colorado this time last year, that we’re thrilled to celebrate it with him in style. As one last hold-out to my vow years ago, I still made chocolate cupcakes for the party.
But when I weigh the cost of today’s party against the amount of scraping I had to do to get the ground-in chocolate crumbs that even the dog was too stuffed to hoover up off my wood floors in Colorado last year, or against the excitement Gabriel felt as his friends talked up the party during school this week, I think it was well worth it.
And so, having a high-end birthday party gets added to the long list of things I swore I’d never do. You know, like I’d never leave Lyons, I’d never miss a social gathering because it conflicted with a child’s nap/bed-time, I’d never move my kids every two years, and I’d never be on the board of the PTO. There’s a reason they say never say never…