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3rd birthday

Happy Birthday

Posted by on November 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm

My son Jake turns five next week and I have spent more than enough time wrestling with what to do about a birthday party.  Or maybe, it’s about how to make him really happy for a few hours – and that’s where I get stuck.

Of course, he wants a party at a NYC sports facility where he went to a party once for a classmate. When he returned, he (and his father) couldn’t say enough about it: two hours of gymnastics instruction, pizza, cake, party bags. What more could one want? Dreamy for the kids and dreamy for the parents – no mess, no baking, no child wrangling.  It costs a bunch – on the low end the party would probably be out $800 – but boy, is it easy: just give them your credit card and you’re in.

If you live outside of NYC — this will seem absurd but remember that we don’t have the back yard you have. Yes, Central Park is our backyard, but carting party supplies 5 blocks and trying to find a patch of vacant grass with a few picnic tables and some bathrooms nearby is different than mowing the lawn and throwing a cooler of juice boxes and beers out on the deck.  And most of us just don’t have the space – our apartment feels it when there are three or four additional people in it; it would implode with 12 more kids. (Or, my husband may argue, I might implode. Regardless, there’s no space.)

So what to do?  When I was growing up, my 4th or 5th or 6th birthday party would have been on a Sunday afternoon and would have included all of my family – cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents; I don’t remember friends being included.  But we’re transplants so that’s not really our situation.  Some people use the formula: one party guest for every year you’re turning (so Jake would have five friends over), and that feels like a reasonable way to limit. Most people we know have parties for their kids every year, with too many kids, too much money spent and party bags filled with crap. And I’ll be the first to admit – parties are fun for the kids and easy for their parents, especially if there’s a glass of wine in it for me.

Even if I weren’t a little bit horrified by the cost of some of these parties, I might still struggle with it, because where do you go from here? How do we top it next year? Can‘t we make the birthday boy feel special with something low-key and at home? And if we can’t manage this when he’s turning five, how on earth will we ever swing it when he’s – gasp – turning six or eight or ten?

Filed under Family, NYC
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