birthday, mindful parenting, mom blog, motherhood, old pop culture references, parenting, tween, tweens

To birthday party or not to birthday party?

“So you really don’t want a party this year?” I was scared to ask since I was already in the clear, but my Mom Duty forced me to confirm this choice.

“No. I don’t know what we’d do and I don’t want to decide who to invite. So…no.”

A twelfth birthday isn’t exactly a milestone. If she was younger I would push her into having a party of some kind because I wouldn’t want her to regret not having one. At 12, though, I think she needs to take the reigns of party planning and if she regrets opting out it will be a good learning experience.

However…it feels like a test. My kids’ birthdays always feel like a test to me. I’m not in the business of making my daughters’ childhoods magical, but I feel like I should up the ante for birthdays. I’m not super sure the “ante” was ever truly established, though, especially for birthdays.

When my girls were little, I didn’t give them much of a choice about whether to have a party or what the party would consist of. Their birthdays are only three weeks apart (well, 3 years and 49 weeks actually) so it made sense to do one party for them both. The friends they’d invite were neighborhood friends anyway so there were no conflicts regarding the guest list.

I’m not gifted in the crafty department, but we did DIY birthday parties at home for several years. We had a Rock Star birthday, a Jungle birthday, a Frozen themed party, a Princess Dress Up party–all complete with activities and construction paper decorations. Two years ago we split up the parties; one was at a pottery place, the other was still at home with DIY decor. Last year both were at home, but one was a sleep over with games and the other was all about kittens.

This year for the first time, my youngest (now 8) had a party not at home. We braved Build-A-Bear and survived. Initially my oldest wanted a party of some kind centering around the opening weekend of the new Avengers movie, but then they moved up the opening by a week and that timing didn’t work for a birthday party. She didn’t have a back up plan and was ok with that.

She might be ok with it, but my Mom-Sense was tingling: Is she in trouble? Do I need to come to her rescue? Does my superhero costume still fit? And what is it called when you have great responsibility but no power?

As with most things mom-related, I’m probably over estimating my obligation. She told me she doesn’t want a party. I should respect that she knows herself well enough to judge how she wants to celebrate her own birthday. Honestly, I should feel pretty proud that she knows where to set boundaries and that, for her, a quiet birthday celebration with her immediate family was enough.

I should, and yet…

This morning she says, “Hm, maybe I should have asked my friends to see if they had any ideas for a party.”

And then I banged my head against the wall repeatedly while I cried. Or I did in my mind anyway.

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