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Fayette-Mom: Birthday party blues

Posted August 23, 2010

Jennifer Joyner

As I found myself pulling into a parking place at one of those big box super centers for the third time in one day, I thought to myself, “There has to be a better way”.

We were celebrating my son’s fifth birthday a bit early. This year, his birthday falls on Labor Day. So instead of contending with holiday travel plans and the back-to-school rush, we decided to have his party a few weeks early.

The first problem: None of the area stores had the invitations Eli wanted. “No Darth Vader, Mommy!” was a directive on which my son would not budge. The theme had to be Star Wars but there were to be no bad guys, no red light sabers.

The third store proved to be the charm -- I found the perfect, pro-Jedi invites. But then, problem No. 2: I miscalculated how much advance time I would need to order the birthday cake.

I know this must seem like a supremely rookie mistake. I had almost ten kid birthday parties under my belt at this point — how could I be so careless? Well forgive me, but it wasn’t as though this were a specialty cake — it was your standard quarter-size sheet cake from my grocer’s freezer, complete with plastic Star Wars characters in full battle stance (OK if it was a bad guy this time, as long as he was clearly in the losing position). The grocery store had the kit but didn’t have time to make the cake; it’s sister store across town could make the cake, but they didn’t have the kit.

I spent a whole lot of time in my car that day.

It all worked out in the end and a perfect Star Wars party was enjoyed by all. But I had to ask myself: When will I be able to actually enjoy my kids’ birthday parties instead of viewing them as something I must endure? Sweating all the little details drains all of the fun out of it for me, and soon, my children will be too old for streamers and balloons. I don’t want to wish this time away — I want to cherish it.

I think next year, I’ll allow myself plenty of time to plan….and lots of time to enjoy.

Jennifer is the mom of a five- and six-year-old. She gathers news for WRAL in Fayetteville and anchors two morning radio newscasts. Her food addiction memoir, "Designated Fat Girl," will come out Sept. 1 from Globe Pequot Press. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.


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  • kbow80 Aug 24, 2010

    Chuckie Cheese is a terrible place to have a party. The one in Raleigh needs to be relocated to a building that is larger for all those run away kids.

  • CowboysFan Aug 24, 2010

    omg you're talking bad about chucky cheese lol. i was talked into having my daughters bday party at cc this year. worse mistake ever. too flipping expensive (even tho me and my friend did half and half), too loud, too much going on. lol. next year.. i'm going to my parents house and having it.. lol

  • missparrothead Aug 24, 2010

    We've held my children's birthday parties at home and at different venues. If we host them at home, we make them smaller. I understand about sweating all the details. Its alot, but try to keep it simple. As long as the kids have fun!

  • elliesmom Aug 24, 2010

    Ok, first--I agree with NCMOMof3 on Chuckie Cheese. I worked there in high school and still feel queasy when I think about it.

    Second, your building wonderful memories by having home parties and eventually it will get better! After a lot of fun, but exhausting, birthday parties, my daughter and I decided to travel somewhere for her birthday. So now we take a trip somewhere with my mother and celebrate a "girls weekend" and have the rest of the family for cake and ice cream on her actual big day. Less drama, more fun memories and really, the cost is about the same!

  • NCMOMof3 Aug 23, 2010

    whatever you do, don't give in and have it at Chuckie Cheese. I did that the year my oldest turned 5 and his dad was in Somolia. That was almost 16 years ago and I have not recovered yet