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The Toddler-Size Birthday Extravaganzas

Jack's third birthday party is this weekend, an event that should rank high on my List Of Things To Think About, but which has barely cracked the Top 25. Until tonight, anyway, when I realized I needed to make an airplane birthday cake, buy a present, figure out how to entertain a handful of toddlers and, oh right, pray desperately for sunshine. And I don't have time to do those things!

For someone who loves to have guests and throw parties as much as I do, children's birthday parties are surprisingly angsty occasions for me. I've thrown three thus far and each time I was saddled with the whole "Do we invite everyone we know? Or just family?" dilemma, not to mention the "what do I DO with five two-year-olds?" problem and the "I have to make a cake in the shape of WHAT?" panic attack. (Or maybe this just shows you that I can turn ANYTHING into an angsty occasion.)

This year the angst stems from the fact that I'm not particularly enjoying other kids' birthday parties lately. We've been invited to a few, and while I love the mothers who invite us and think their children are absolutely darling and am thrilled to be asked to celebrate, these parties are always so STRESSFUL. I am, after all, the Mom of Jack, who can be sensitive and intimidated in large groups, and Molly, who is Miss Clingypants. Birthday parties, full of treats and toys and fun turn into this sort of High Alert situation, a Playdate On Speed if you will, where I'm on the lookout for Sharing Crimes and hurt feelings, and needing to deal with them while shlepping around a 25-pound bag of whine.

In other words, the next birthday party to which my kids are invited better serve alcohol.

So I think I go a bit overboard when I'm thinking about OUR party. No insisting on everyone playing the same game! No set time! No structure! Just hanging out! Which is HILARIOUS since I am structure's biggest fan. But here I am drawing blanks when my mom asks me what the kids will do and when we'll open presents and where everyone will eat. Uh, around? Somewhere? Hmm, perhaps I should think about that.

Which is where I am right now, THINKING ABOUT IT. I have made a list (see: structure! is fabulous!) and determined what day we are shopping at Costco and where to buy the favors and when I'll have time to plant the petunias in my backyard, where I will hopefully have enough chairs for eating outside. Of course, I'm not sure why I'm bothering, since 90% Chance Of Rain is probably the only reliable factor in this entire party planning process.

But my kid deserves a kickstart to Three. He's going to get his airplane cake and heaps of attention and treats galore and I'm excited to have friends and family to our new house (although surely that's part of the stress, the fact that the new house hardly looks like a page out of a home decor catalog!) I WILL get my butt in gear and churn out an afternoon of streamered, sprinkled, pin-the-nose-on-the-airplane fun.

What about you? Can you get excited for the kiddie parties?

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