“They say it’s your birthday/ Happy birthday to you!/ They say it’s your birthday/ We’re gonna have a good time!” This song by the Beatles has become a tradition in my house. When we have a birthday, we play the song. Except Aboji. Aboji isn’t a Beatles fan, so we find some other birthday song to play for him. Honestly, I’m not really into The Beatles either, but Birthday is fun…and Beautiful Boy (the song I quoted last week) isn’t by The Beatles, just John Lennon.

Obviously none of The Beatles were parents when Birthday was written. If they had been, they would have realized how much work birthdays are. You have to get, or make, a cake. You have to get ice cream. You have to find out what the birthday person wants for their birthday so you can get them the “perfect” gift…and you have to be subtle. Just asking a person what they want isn’t fun for anyone involved. It just makes you obligated to get something you may not be able to afford. You have to wrap the gift. You have to invite people to get together (well…get together according to what the government says is safe these days). And all that is BEFORE the person’s birthday!

If you’re having a true party, then you also have to add in decorations, food and drinks, and party favors. And activities…because having a slew of children just running around causing havoc isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time – except the children.

I noticed when M and Z were fairly young that they were becoming spoiled (I will claim about 65% of the blame – the rest can be split evenly between C and the kids) despite our status as a low-income family. I spent some time thinking about how C must have grown up and about how I grew up. I realized that for C, birthday parties were becoming a source of stress because of the expense. For me, it was a source of stress because I had to figure out how to stretch our non-existent budget to include all the stuff I already listed out, PLUS I then had to plan the party and host the stupid thing.

As I’m writing this, I’m also realizing that birthday parties are kind of a requirement in C’s mind. But he doesn’t truly want a party, he wants a get together – just food, drinks, cake, ice cream, and people. He also doesn’t want to host – just hang out. That’s neither here nor there, just an aside because it’s taken me 17+ years to figure that out. Anyway….

Like I said, birthdays had just become these huge balls of stress for us and they were making the kids more spoiled. So I announced that M’s 10th birthday party would be her last with 2 exceptions: one important teen birthday and her 18th birthday. It took another year with C throwing another party, some explanations, and some fighting for C to realize that I wasn’t saying that people couldn’t come over to wish the kids happy birthday, have a piece of cake and some ice cream, and give them gifts if they wanted. I just wanted things to be on their time and not have to throw a party.

We’ve done the same thing with Z, and we plan to do the same with K (but I don’t see that working well with his parents) – one teen party and a last party from us at 18. I’d like to be able to tell you that all the birthday stress has melted away, but it hasn’t. It has gotten better though! There’s no stress from having to throw a party. Just stress about gifts, and finding the perfect time to treat them to a special meal out with just the parents. It’s so much less stress than planning a party!

Z actually managed to take all the stress away this year. He’d been bugging us, then begging us, for a unicycle since before Christmas. We try to stick to $100/kid + stocking stuffers each year, so a unicycle just wasn’t an option for Christmas. He was ecstatic to come home from school and see the unicycle just sitting there for him. He can’t ride it on his own yet, but it’s only been 3 days and we’ve had life going on.

As for me, I’m trying to come up with a subtle way to throw a dinosaur princess party for my 40th birthday next year. This year, I just want to have some peace and quiet, my favorite lunch, maybe a new Build-a-Bear, and my binkie.

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