The oven timer goes off and I rush away from my pile of wrapping paper and ribbons over to the oven to pull out what is supposed to be a cake masterpiece. It’s my sons 7th birthday and guests for his party are supposed to be arriving at my house within the hour. Why on earth did I think this was a good idea? I can barely organize my medicine cabinet let alone a birthday party with all of my son’s classmates invited.
I open the oven and pull the cake out. My face immediately falls when I see the cracks running through the cake that make it look more like cobblestones than the edible piece of art that Pinterest made me think it would be. Oh well. No time to dwell. Prompted by the numbers displayed on the oven’s clock I immediately flip the pan over. I need to frost this thing stat! The cake easily slides out of the pan. Unfortunately, it does so in about 6 or 7 different pieces and there is a layer of it still stuck to the bottom of the pan.
I mentally kick myself for not being able to follow directions that are clearly printed on the back of a box. Is there still time to order an ice-cream cake from Dairy Queen? With only 40 minutes until show time probably not. Being the problem solver that I am, I grab the tubs of pre-made frosting and start piecing the cake back together like a sort of infuriating jigsaw puzzle. I should have made cupcakes instead.
Just as I’m finishing gluing the cake back together, the doorbell rings. Crap. Is it that time already? I wipe my sticky hands on a dish towel and rush to the door feeling a sense of panic. I haven’t finished wrapping presents or putting up streamers. Heck I barely remembered to buy matching dinosaur plates and napkins. I open the door and throngs of screaming kids pour into my house.
A few moms follow and give me encouraging smiles. Being that I can never remember their names I just smile and tell them to come in and make themselves comfortable. I make my way back to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on what I now refer to as the Frankenstein cake, and my heart sinks to the bottom of my stomach when I see it. The frosting that I so hastily applied has melted into the cake and a chunk of it is sitting on the floor.
I feel like crying. I mean who screws up their son’s birthday cake? It takes all of the energy I have to pick up the chunk on the floor and try to piece it back together. For sanitation reasons I make sure to blow on it first.
By the time I feel like I can’t do anymore, I hear a large banging noise coming from my living room. I take a deep breath and make my way towards the noise to face the madness that has become my son’s birthday party.
The first time I experienced that scenario, I swore to myself that I would only host birthday parties at Chuck E Cheese’s. Apparently, I can’t keep those kinds of promises. Time and time again, I have fumbled my way through planning, organizing, and hosting my children’s birthday parties. I was honestly getting to the point where I was almost dreading their birthdays because of the stress I knew I would have to endure.
I think a lot of moms go through some variation of this if not the exact same thing. Juggling work and home is difficult enough without being expected to plan elaborate parties. It wasn’t until I realized that the only person expecting me to plan elaborate parties was myself that I began to enjoy planning birthday parties. Here are a few lessons that I learned the hard way.
• As moms it can be difficult to let go of control and lower our expectations. Sites like Pinterest are helpful when it comes to gathering ideas, but don’t let those pictures set your standards for how everything is supposed to turn out. It’s OK to not be a perfect homemaker and deciding to buy a cake from the grocery store instead. Your children won’t think you love them any less because you take a few shortcuts.
• The most important part of your child’s birthday party is ensuring that everyone, especially the birthday-boy/girl has a good time. Everyone includes you. Planning meals that require lots of last minute prep work or that have to be eaten as soon as they come out of the oven means that you will be stuck in the kitchen working while everyone else is celebrating your kid’s big day. Choosing something like cold cuts, sandwiches that can be made in advance, or grill food will at least allow you to be near the fun.
• Letting your child choose a theme for his or her party may sound like it adds work, but it actually finished up a lot of the planning for you. Once you know that your kid wants a Spiderman theme, you can narrow down your purchases to items related to that, and get some new ideas for activities, like a Spiderman piñata, or, if you’re really bold, a Silly String Web War! That ought to keep them busy for a while!
• As far as doing everything yourself goes, don’t take on more than you know you can handle. Ask for help from Dad, your parents, or even your friends. A kid’s birthday party isn’t meant to be stressful. In fact, the best birthday parties are the ones that make you forget your stress and make you feel like a kid again. If you spread out responsibilities the party is more likely to go off without a hitch and you will actually be able to relax a little and enjoy those precious moments with your kids.
Jenny Franklin is a mother, a party planner and a blogger. She often writes on the topics of children’s birthdays as a freelance writer for the girl’s birthday party supplies producer, Party Pail.