Monthly Archives: May 2014

Why I’m So “Over” Hosting Big Birthday Parties

My kids have had their last big birthday party: at home, at a park, at a party place. I am so done organizing them, turn me over.

Kids in a bounce house

This year’s shindig was Zach’s seventh birthday party. My husband and I combined didn’t have seven birthday parties during our childhood. I had exactly two, both of which were super small and simple, because my parents had little money and few friends.

Here are my reasons for ending the insanity of large birthday parties for my kids:

The Cost
I’m pretty lazy as far as event planning goes, so I usually pay a place like Pump It Up to entertain the kids with inflatable bouncy houses. I still have to pay for the snacks, the plates, cups, napkins, pizza, juice, water, cupcakes, and party favors.

Setup and Cleanup
This year my in-laws were in town and were a HUGE help in setting and cleaning up the party we had at home. It was a bit of a small miracle that they were all there at the same time, so I feel like having this party as the last one is ending on a high note. When I have to do most of the work myself, I get really anxious, resentful, and end up being a pretty bitchy hostess. Not fun for anyone.

The Guest List
We had almost 60 guests at our party this year. It’s an awkward feeling when you get a “No” reply from someone, pump your fist, and yell, “Yay!” I don’t understand the families who can invite everyone from their kid’s classroom. We had guests from my son’s school, our playgroup, our neighborhood, and from friends we knew before we had kids.

The Gifts
This year I said “No gifts” on the invitation, and most people complied, which was great. At previous parties, the kids would get dozens of gifts, which were quality gifts, but my kids were not particularly grateful, “Oh, it’s just a book,” and of course, they were only interested in the toys for a few days before piling them up all over my house.

The Entitlement
This year Zach didn’t like that I had invited one boy from his class that he sometimes gets into fights with, and that I didn’t invite Seamus, a boy he really likes. He told me that Seamus told him, “It’s your birthday party, you should get to invite whoever you want and you should get to do stuff. It’s your party!”

Zach threw a pretty good-sized fit about the guest list, not being able to have separate themes for him and his sister, and not being able to do a big project, like building Mythbuster-type rigs and conducting experiments.

I was initially mad because I felt like he was ungrateful for all of the work I do, and then I remembered that I’m the one insisting we do the party in the first place. He did have a good point. He’s old enough now that he can help plan his birthday celebration.

Honestly, the kids’ birthday parties were the one time of year I could see some of my friends, but we’re just going to have to make more of an effort to get together during the rest of the year.

From here on out, my kids get mini-cupcakes at school with their classmates and a family dinner. Maybe Zach could invite two or three other kids out for lunch at a pizza place.

My parenting philosophy continues to evolve into keeping things as simple as possible.

How do you celebrate your kids’ birthdays?

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Why Mothers Should Embrace Grandparents’ Day

Check out my guest blogger post on Scary Mommy about how mothers and grandparents each deserve to have their own special day.

Feeling Irritated? Get Curious!

My cat woke me up in the middle of the night meowing loudly. My first instinct whenever something happens that I don’t like is to get angry and resist that it’s happening. Even though I was half-asleep, I managed to breathe and remember that he doesn’t do this every night. He was probably meowing for a reason, not just to annoy me.

An irritated woman

I got up and saw that during yesterday’s play date someone had moved a foot stool in front of the cat door, so he couldn’t go outside. I moved the stool aside and went back to bed. He continued to meow for awhile, trying to get me to open the door for him, but I focused on my breathing and listened until he finally went out the cat door on his own.

My dialectical behavior therapist used to encourage me to try to widen my perspective. When I’m depressed and angry, everything seems black-and-white to me, and there’s only one explanation for anything. When I was feeling strong negative emotions, she would always tell me, “Get curious!”

It’s a skill to look beyond first impressions and knee-jerk reactions. This morning at Starbucks, it was really crowded, and I was irritated that two women were taking up two small tables when they were obviously together and didn’t seem to need both tables. I considered asking them if they would give up one of the tables, but decided to wait it out and see if other people joined them or if they were leaving soon anyway. Sure enough, after I ordered my drink, I saw that two other people had joined them, and they really did need both tables.

I’ve written before about meeting hate with kindness. I think getting curious about what motivates people is the first step in being able to show them kindness and give them the benefit of the doubt.

One of the DBT skills I learned was “Check the Facts.” Here are the steps:

  1. Describe: what happened? Be specific.
  2. Consider: what is my interpretation of what happened? What story am I telling about it?
  3. Determine: what is the threat? What am I worried will happen because of this event?
  4. Evaluate: what is the catastrophe I’m worried will happen because of this event?
  5. Predict: how likely is the catastrophe likely to occur? Assign a percentage.
  6. If the percentage is less than 50%, practice radical acceptance

It can help write this stuff down, especially when you’re feeling really strong emotions, but after some practice, it’s pretty easy to do just in your head. By the time I get to step three, I’m usually already calming down and feeling more compassionate and understanding.

I really like the use of the word “catastrophe.” I can be so extreme, reacting to every little thing as though it’s a really big deal when it usually isn’t. Real catastrophes are natural disasters, poverty, hunger, child abuse, etc. My projection that someone is being rude is just another example of my perfectionism. We all get distracted, stressed out, and tired, and we each deserve a break.

How do you practice giving people the benefit of the doubt?

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