In just one week, Rosemarie, my teeny tiny baby girl, will turn four years old. I don’t need to talk about how fast it all went. I don’t need to mention how one minute I was brushing the baby fuzz atop her little head and suddenly I’m braiding hair down her soft, white neck. You know all about that. You too turned around and saw years had passed without your knowing. You too struggle with the gratitude and pride you feel to watch your baby grow against the sinking sadness in your chest when you think of all the moments already gone behind you. You get it. We all do.
But what can we do except enjoy the moments while they’re here and celebrate every day we have with these little creatures, especially their birthdays. Rosie’s party began as a pasta party; it was her idea and I was thrilled. I pictured a pasta bar with long, squiggly fusilli, assorted sauces and big shakers of parmesan cheese. I found the cutest little spaghetti and meatball cupcakes online and my talented BFF Clarisse was on the case. After a few weeks though, our pasta theme gave way to Peppa Pig. It was on to mason jars filled with muddy puddles for dessert and miniature wellies as decorations. Alas, Peppa Pig snorted on her way once we booked the party at a music school and Rockin’ Rosie began to play the air guitar in preparation. Rock party it is. I can’t reveal all the surprises before the party, of course, but we’re working on some cute little touches to make this shindig hip, cool, and just plain rock n’ roll.
Whenever I plan a party or event, I bother the heck out of my friends and family and I’ve ended up in a lot of conversations about this party, a mere four-year-old’s birthday celebration. How much is too much? When does a cute theme become ridiculous? Can you go too far?
I have friends and family on all sides of the issue. Friend 1, for example, finds it all unnecessary: “I just think it’s all ridiculous: fondant cakes, personalized invites, centerpieces…I miss the days of write-in invitations, party hats that broke…and good, old-fashioned Carvel ice-cream cake.” Sister 1 mostly finds me annoying: “Kimberly, why do you care? Just order the stupid dishes. Who cares if they don’t match the balloons?” Sister 2 finds themes fun and loves to help but only until I become obsessive. Others love all the creative mumbo jumbo as much as I do. They too search for color-coordinated drink straws and the perfect favor to compliment the party’s theme.
I’ll admit it. We live in an extremist society, in the age of Pinterest where everything has to be cute and themed and creative and crafty. And there’s a lot of pressure. Pinterest Peer Pressure. Peerinterest Pressure. No, Pinterest Peer Pressure will do.
I’ll admit that I want to have company over without creating a work of art out of antipasto. I want to store my daughter’s artwork without building a multi-sectioned shadow box that holds more than Mary Poppins’s bag. And I do think fondant cakes are overused. I don’t really think we need a giant Elmo for a third birthday or a Taylor Swift album cover replica for a 12-and-a-half-year-old’s celebration.
I shake my head when I see photos of Sweet 16s, which for all intents and purposes are weddings without a husband. They have bridal parties in the form of like-dressed friends on a dais.
There are over-the-top centerpieces with feathers and flowers and crystals and pearls. The guest of honor, just like a bride, is announced into the room with a man of her choosing on her arm.
And this all seems crazy to me. But if Sweet 16s have become weddings, then regular birthday parties have become Sweet 16s, and I am certainly guilty of perpetuating this change.
The truth though? I love it! I thoroughly enjoy planning these parties. I love picking out a color scheme and finding all the right items to match. I love taking a theme and sprinkling it throughout the party however I can. Rosemarie’s first year, I loved making lemon centerpieces and lemonade place cards for the guests.
This year, I am having fun bringing a little rock and roll to the party wherever I can. I wasn’t particulary in the mood to go over the top this time, so I didn’t. I’m doing just enough to make me happy and make my daughter happy.
In the end, isn’t that what matters? The years do go by so fast. Time rushes past us without mercy. So shouldn’t we do whatever it is that makes us happy? And, furthermore, shouldn’t we allow others to do the same with no judgment passed?
I don’t care how you celebrate your child’s birthday. And I mean that sincerely, not rudely. My daughter has had some of the best times at the simplest parties. We’ve been to bashes filled with custom centerpieces and themed entertainment. We’ve been to others with some simple, fun-colored balloons and a “Happy Birthday” song.
Does it make you happy? That’s the question.
Does it make the parents of a sweet sixteen-year-old happy to throw her a super sweet sixteen? Does it make their daughter happy? If so, who am I to judge? Of course, there are other issues here: issues of entitlement and spoiled brats who demand extravagantly expensive parties. But when this isn’t the case and if you have a daughter who is well-behaved and the means to give her the party of her dreams, shouldn’t you be able to do so without judgment?
Did it make my daughter happy to see Dora centerpieces? Yes, it did. No, she wouldn’t know the difference without them but it makes me happy to see her react and, quite honestly, it makes me happy to see what I can create (with Clarisse’s help here and there).
That, I think, should be the deciding factor. Don’t order a fondant bust of Optimus Prime simply because you think you should. Don’t search for rainbow-striped napkins because the woman on Pinterest named them a must-have for a rainbow-themed party. Do what you want to do. Do it because you want to and for that reason alone.
Let’s stop pressuring one another. Let’s stop judging each other. Let’s just be happy for each other when we have the guts to overcome the peer pressure and find the will to do whatever it is that makes us smile.