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Fayette-Mom: Birthday party blues

Posted August 23, 2010 8:20 p.m. EDT

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.