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My only child, a boy, was born February 27. I began planning his Bar Mitzvah February 28. No, really.
I won’t get into the details as to why I feel a desperate need to soup up my soirees. But I will tell you why I don’t do it: for bragging rights, to play the game of one-upmanship.
Here’s a brief history of my birthday party hysteria. They're all big. I thought after year five I’d stop the insanity. But my son turned six this year, and I’m afraid my party sickness hit Defcon 5.
1st Birthday: The Big One
The year “One” party is never for the kid. The baby is crying in a highchair, wearing a ridiculous dunce cap emblazoned with a glitter number 1 in pink or blue, face smashed with buttercream. Their memories will only be in pictures that you can embarrass your son or daughter with at their wedding.
I wanted to have some kind of theme that could be carried from invite to party favor. My son had a stuffed duck that he loved (evidenced by the hardened drool all over its webbed feet), so I started there. I found matching paper products with ducks all over them and went from there.
Duck fondant cake? Quack yes.
Favors were—what else—fancy rubber duckies.
To keep the babies entertained and not crank-up before naptime, I hired a kids musician complete with bubble machine and maracas. For the grown-ups, I had a mentalist show up. He did card tricks, guessed what color underwear people were wearing...normal things you see at a child’s 1st birthday party.
Terrible 2: Elmo Lives
Oh, you magical red furry monster, how grateful I am that you were a short-lived phase. This might have been called “Birthday Party 2: Elmo’s Revenge.”
For starters, I had rented tables and chairs in my kitchen for 20 toddlers who had no desire to sit at all. I had Sesame Street cups and plates. The cake was this fondant fantasy of rainbow colors. Fruit platter? Elmo head.
And, hey! Look who’s been hiding in the bathroom? Why, it’s Elmo himself, ready to spread his songs and cheer to all the party goers.
About to be 3: Caring is Sharing (Costs)
So far, year one and two hadn’t cost less than $1,500. I’d done everything a la carte, in my house, cleaning up the aftermath for weeks on end. (Hey, there’s another dog-hair-covered goldfish under the sofa.) My husband asked nicely to move the party to another location.
“Can’t you do what all the other moms do?”
We shared a party with my son’s best friend, born two days after him. We split the cost at a local kids gym. But with MORE. “Really, Rachel? A Barbie for every girl?”
I was like Oprah giving away cars. “You get a Lightning McQueen Hauler!”
Year 4: Back to More
My son, Jesse, knew what he wanted this year: A circus party. Barnum and Bailey it is! There was an inflatable circus-themed bounce house and truly the world’s best balloon artist. I’m talking jetpacks and mad-hatter skills.
The invite even looked like a circus ticket. Come one come all to the greatest birthday party on earth!
Outrageous Party Mom Damage: $2,500. I could have bought tickets to the real circus for 25 kids at this rate.
Finally 5: Cowabunga I’ve Lost My Mind
Five is huge. Amirite? Like totally worthy of a double-themed party. Mad science and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were competing interests and I simply couldn’t choose. So I did both. Here's how that day went down: First, Leonardo, a member of the Ninja Turtles, pays a visit and dances to Vanilla Ice’s Go Ninja Go. Second, a costumed “mad scientist” arrives and fills the room with smoke and teaches kids how to make slime.
The cake is a $250 massive turtle head that no one could cut. The favors were my raison d’etre. Pizza boxes I purchased at a restaurant supply, which I covered in labels I got on Etsy. Inside, personalized tee shirts for every child.
Upon leaving, a mom said, “You’re nuts. And making me look bad.”
6 (and Beyond): New York City Bound
Photo Credit: IntrepidMuseum.org
When that baby is in your belly, time seems never ending. And then you blink and he’s six. It’s all so special.
Despite telling myself I was done with the madness, I made 25 little boys and their parents schlep 30 miles into Manhattan for a party at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. Simulator rides, space shuttle viewing, sitting in a real Coast Guard helicopter. It was my crowning achievement as Outrageous Party Mom.
Now if you’ll excuse me, his seventh is just six months away. I have to go make plans. Video game truck, anyone?