rockin’ the birthday party old school

Last week, I celebrated six years of parenthood as my son Cooper finished his sixth lap around the track. Birthdays always freak me out, in that they force me to contemplate that, for example, Cooper turned six, which actually means he’s FINISHED six years of life and is really in his SEVENTH year. Or, say someone were 39, they would actually be now in their FORTIETH year. Basically, by the time you turn 40 you’re DONE being 40. So that pretty much means that anyone who’s 39 is kind of 40 already. Not that I know anyone in that particular situation.

But a child’s birthday has many other factors to freak a mom out, such as the obligation to invite the entire kindergarten classroom of 17, plus the very bestest friends that aren’t in that group, and then to provide sufficient entertainment to said jaded group of world-weary loose-toothed hooligans. I thought a soccer party would be nice. Because it would not be here. Let Super Soccer Stars work their magic! “No, that’s not cool,” Cooper said, and neither was a bowling party or a movie party.

“So what would be cool?” I asked, out of ideas.
Cooper pondered this. “I want to have a party here,” he said finally. “In our house.”

Now, I entertain in my head all the time, and I imagined a lovely holiday party this year that I swear you were on the imaginary list for, but I do not often actually invite anyone to come over. So the thought of 20 six-year-olds underfoot was a little daunting. But I do try to be both Cool Mom and Reasonable Mom, and not wanting to fail the “Birthday Pressure Quiz” on, I agreed to Keep It Simple and host an old-fashioned at-home birthday party.

And although I cannot say it was without pressure, I can say that Cooper’s party was inexpensive, fun, and successful. Six-year-olds can get a little wild– I had to break up two kids that were choking each other with tinsel from the Christmas tree– but overall they were self-sufficient little guests. Here were some of the things that worked well for us:

–the kids all came in their pajamas, at 5 pm, for a two hour “pajama party.” All the giggling, none of the sleeping over!
–I had relatives around to help but encouraged parents to drop off their kids, so I wouldn’t have 20 adults to entertain as well
–we made decorating the Christmas tree the main activity of the party. Everyone took part, and I didn’t have to do it this year!
–the kids sat on big blankets on our living room floor to have a “picnic” of pizza, fruit, and juice boxes
–we played “Telephone” and a sort of 20,000 Pyramid type game, where the kids took turns being the Nipsey Russell or Sandy Duncan part with categories like “Things Our Gym Teacher Would Say.”

And it was all well, and good, until I ran out of categories for that game and we still had twenty minutes of party left.

“Let them open their presents,” my friend Cece said.

“What?” I asked. “Do you want to get me reported? NO ONE opens birthday presents at their parties anymore.”

“Trust me,” she said. “They’ll like it.”

And I’ll be darned, they LOVED it. Cooper loved it of course, but all his friends were so thrilled to give him what they brought, and watch him open it, and hear him say thank you. I must say, I think our modern ban on this activity is misguided.

So I did learn a few things from our house party, and I’ll do another one next year, and perhaps I can move my home state off the “high pressure community” list on birthdayswithoutpressure. Every little bit helps.