Our firstborn turned 6 years old this week. Last year, we had his party at Pump It Up. The year before we had folks trek all the way to Didier Farms for a pumpkin patch party. This year, we let our inner Scrooge take over and decided not to have a party for the poor, deprived kid. A part of me felt a little bad about it, but as a friend astutely observed, obviously not bad enough!
Weeks ago, I explained to Ethan that I was all partied out. When planning such shindigs in the past, I sometimes felt like I was preparing for a wedding again: guest lists, venues, party favors, budgets, oh my! My old-fashioned self fondly recalled the birthday parties of my childhood when we just had a handful of neighbor kids over, my mom baked a cake, we opened simple presents and called it a day. Now we could either feed a small nation for a week or use that money to throw one big birthday bash. Then there’s the explosion of toys that follows. Again, I recall how little toys I had growing up and how already the boys have probably outnumbered in 6 years all the toys my brother and I had in our entire childhood. To try to remedy that, I started having guests donate to charity with Connor’s birthdays (now your sympathies extend to the younger son). His last birthday we had friends bring care package items for friends serving in Africa. I thought I was really topping the Mommy brains charts with that one: bless dear friends, keep the house from getting messed up with unnecessary presents, and teach the kids that giving is better than receiving. The first two worked. As for the last objective, Ethan told me, “Mommy, no care packages for my birthday…I want presents!” Oh, well. He was 5 years old when he said it. I feel that way, too, sometimes, and I’m much older and wiser (apparently….not).
Yes, I know some of you are balking at my cruelty. But I have to tell you, I was tickled not to plan and throw a big party. And I’ll admit it was purely selfish of me. Actually, he was really OK with it, too. As part of the negotiations, we decided that he could do 3 special things with 3 special friends. He was totally on board with that…until we started the birthday party circuit ourselves and were buying presents to bring to each of them. He looked at me after one and said, “Uh, I want a party where people bring me lots of presents, too.” I told him that next year, we’d become good parents again (maybe), but this was my sabbatical year.
Before you call DCFS on me for neglect, he did have his very first official sleepover with a neighbor friend whom he has known since he was 3, which for him is half his lifetime. They ate Thai food, watched a movie with popcorn, played, slept in the bunk bed, had waffles and played some more.
On his actual birthday Wednesday, he got to take a dear church friend to Chuck E Cheese. They are at the age where they can run around independently and truly enjoy all the overstimulation that those places offer. They played games, ate pizza and Sweet Mandy B’s cupcakes, and redeemed tickets for useless knickknacks that will have the lifespan of a gnat. Now who feels sorry for him? That’s what I thought.
And I did say 3, so tomorrow we’ll be picking up a beloved school friend and heading to the Adler Planetarium (with my entire side of the family, too), so Ethan can get his fill of planets, stars, and solar system loves. Sure, no official party, but he still managed to have a week-long celebration. Next year, I think I’ll hire his negotiator because somehow I’m starting to feel that maybe I’m the one who got the raw end of the deal.
Party or not, Ethan Beckett is truly God’s gift to this lucky Mommy. I am so thankful for my 6-year-old little man! It’s definitely a win-win in that sense!