Friends, I am exhausted... but not by anything I'm doing. Nope, it's not me. It's you. Yes, you, my beautiful fellow moms. Seeing how hard you're working and the towering standards your holding yourselves up to has me overwrought. And these impossible expectations are never more apparent than when I see pictures of your kids' birthday parties. They're stunning. They're inspirational. But they need to be replaced with children's birthday party themes for moms who have given up.
Now, when I say "given up" I know that has bad connotations, but in this case giving up is a good thing! Encouraged even! Because I'm not saying to give up on parties or fun or engaging with your children. I'm not advocating for you to ditch the entirety of your parenting responsibilities.
I am saying, however, that you should give up on the idea that if your kid's party doesn't appear to be professionally designed and tremendously expensive that it can't be fun or engaging... or even a party. I gave up and it's the best party-related decision I've made since I mastered the art of "pacing myself" sometime in my mid-20s. It's by far the best children's party-related decision I've made since I figured out that if you scrunch up your face when they put the blindfold on it'll slip down just enough for you to see the piñata when you un-scrunch after they spin you around.
Because, for a lot of people, the work and stress of creating a party that looks picture perfect eats into the joy of the party itself. Give up on the idea of perfection so you can give into the fun that can only come along with knowing that, sure, the party is a hot mess, but it's your hot mess and look at how happy it's making your kid.
Look, if you enjoy doing over the top, gorgeously appointed parties, I would never tell you that you should give it up. You have fun planning your party and celebrating with your family and friends and power to you, girl. I'm happy for you and I hope I get an invitation to share in your happiness. But if planning a theme months in advance and finding the perfect ballerina themed decor that needs to be special ordered from France isn't your idea of a good time, then take a deep breath, look lovingly at your child, and say "F*ck it." Those so-called "must-haves" aren't the aspects of the party your child will remember. They'll remember the joy of their friends coming together to play and eat cake and give them presents.
Children are simple creatures, bless them, so a simple theme will do it. Here are just a few ideas to serve as inspiration (if not actual, practical themes) to get you in the spirit of giving up completely.
The Floor Is Lava
Take this classic childhood game to the next level by letting 10 or so kids just run amok all over your furniture... because who cares?! Your own kids trashed your entire life and you don't have nice things anymore anyway. LOL. Set up extra pillows around your house or apartment and just let them go to town. (This is a perfect time to buy new throw pillows that your partner won't object to because, duh, you need them for the party.)
You'll probably get longer out of this game than you'd think, but eventually they will get bored at which point just let them play whatever else it is they want to play and when they get out of hand give them cake and punch and then send them home all sugared up to their parents.
Enjoy your new throw pillows.
Junk Drawer Treasure Hunt
Just take a handful of stuff in your junk drawer, show it to the kids, and then hide the items around your house. (Word of caution: lock your bedroom door because you do not need some strange child finding your vibrator.) Feel free to keep hiding the stuff, or give hints, or even draw some makeshift maps if you feel so inclined. Hell, give the kids completely inaccurate hints if you want to keep them occupied for longer. If you have a yard and it's a nice day, go ahead and do this all outside.
Who Can Walk On My Back The Longest?
So when I was a kid, my grandfather would have my brothers and sister and I walk on his back, like, for hours. And we were all too happy to do it one, because it was fun and he made it a contest. As I had kids of my own, I realized why: little feet on your back feels amazing. So, seriously, why not make this a birthday party/spa day. Go ahead and have a "paint the party kids' mommy's face" (with a clay face mask) party while you're at it.
I cannot, however, stress how much you can't give them sugar before they've walked on your back, because that'll go from "soothing" to "ruptured spleen" pretty quickly.
Hoola-Hoop & Jump Rope Olympics
This was my mother's specialty and, to date, probably one of my most memorable birthdays. She split the kids into teams and came up with random challenges and relay races based on jumping through hoops or over ropes or, you know, whatever. You guys, we loved it.
These games do not have to be especially creative or challenging, because kids are pretty clumsy but unfailingly enthusiastic and will get a kick out of it. Tire them out entirely so they go to sleep hours ahead of schedule and their parents will love you forever.
Let's All Go To The Movies
Oh. You didn't think I was suggesting taking a bunch of kids hyped up on Slush Puppies and Twizzlers to the actual movie theater, did you? HA! No. It costs a family of four about $100 to see a movie, so hell no I'm not about to drop a million bucks on a bunch of 5-year-old hooligans who aren't going to even pay attention to Mary Poppins Returns or whatever.
I'm talking about just showing a bunch of kids a movie at your house. One they all know and love and can talk through without missing plot points. One that's 90 minutes long so that after it's done you can give them cake and punch and then send them back to their parents.
Whatever Theme You Had Last Year
You still have the decorations, right? Roll with that.
Jump Into This Kiddie Pool
Fill a kiddie pool with water (maybe a day ahead of time, just to give it a chance to heat up so they don't all complain it's freezing), tell the kids to bring bathing suits and towels, and be prepared for a large chunk of your lawn to be ripped up and turn to mud. It's worth it to keep all those kids out of your house, to be honest. Besides, toss some grass seed on there in the fall, it'll be good as new by the spring.
OMG It's The Playground
Honestly, I really don't know why more people don't do this. Kids love the playground. Take a cake and some juice boxes or whatever and let them run around on public property that is specially equipped with the best-and-most-funnest-jungle-gym ever. This is everything children want in a birthday party and leaves you with basically no clean up whatsoever.
[Your Child's Name] Birthday
You do not need a theme. The key ingredients for a successful and memorable birthday party are cake, kids, and letting your child know that you love them and want them to be happy on their special day.