Thursday, May 28, 2009

Party Planning

My youngest son turned 3 yesterday and as requested by him, I threw him a "tractor" party. He picked the theme and I planned the party. Yesterday's party was a tractor driven hayride on a strawberry farm followed by a picnic. There was a farm scene cake, fresh strawberries from the farm, and parting gifts of treat filled individual toy barns. And I should mention that the birthday boy was in full John Deere uniform with a green John Deere baseball hat and t-shirt. Over the top? No, just keeping up with the other parties on his social calendar. The preschool birthday party has become so much more than a back yard gathering with ice cream and cake.

Throwing a preschool aged birthday party can be quite involved if you let it. And, I do. Its a creative outlet for me. Sure, many kids could be happy with any simple party as long as it involved cake. But, that's just not me. And apparently, its not my kids either. They have latched onto the idea of themed parties and there's no stopping them now. My kids might not look anything like me, but when I see them spend hours paging through their Oriental Trading Company and Party Express catalogs dreaming up their next party, I know they are mine. When its time to actually plan their next birthday, they throw an idea out there and my work begins.

The planning of a kid's birthday party is serious stuff and can take up some time if you are planning multiple parties a year. You have to scout locations in advance and coordinate them with different theme options. Yes, you can have a great party at your home and I have done this several times. But, I would now gladly pay someone else to host the wild bunch and clean up. Then there is the question of entertainment if the venue does not provide some activity. The cake has to be ordered, or if you are talented enough, designed and made. And lastly, but definitely not the least important piece, is the all anticipated goody bag. The goody bag is gold. The party is a bust if the goody bag is not awesome. It is the rock star SWAG of the preschooler's world.

Yes, there was a day when I threw real parties with such fervor. I focused my energy on the perfect cocktail and appetizer. I had themes that didn't involve the latest Disney/Pixar movie and my husband and I packed an apartment or a house with a lively mix of people with good music and conversation. There were no goody bags, but our parties were still popular. I might even say some of the more wild ones were legendary. Do I miss those parties? Oddly, no. We still have a few gatherings every year, but I now find it so much more enjoyable to plan a kid's party. For as much work that goes into the details of a kid's party, there is so much less stress about the actual party. The guest list is easy: neighborhood gang or preschool class. Food choices are easy: pizza and juice. There's no calculating which group of friends to invite, what food to serve, and what music to play. With a Fall and a Spring birthday to plan a party for, I honestly have no desire to plan many other types of parties.

I may put a lot of effort into these giant events for pint sized people, but there are great rewards. Nothing beats the smiles on my kids' faces when they are enjoying their party. My heart melted yesterday when we were driving out to the farm and my birthday boy said to me with a little voice filled with anticipation, "Mom, I am so excited for my party". How many more years will I really have to do this for my kids? Those tween and teen years will be here soon enough and the hugs and kisses for the "best tractor party ever" will be gone. I realized again yesterday that I will do anything to see pure happiness on my kids' faces. Pure happiness for them is also bliss for me.

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