Birthdays are gentle reminders of what you will need to begin to let go, starting with what happens in the parties! With each passing year, the assertions only increase and you can do nothing but yield!
I haven't had the nightmares yet because I have organized only three so far but I am getting there! Here is a fun guide to getting the basics right.
The Birthday Dress: This is a prerequisite if you do not want a cranky child at your hands at the wrong time. While the child needs to dress for the occasion, keep the frills at bay. You may want to avoid taking the wearer to shop. Be warned, it won't be long before they decide that they want to come along and try out everything before they okay 'the' dress.
The Cake: The cake necessarily needs to be whatever animated character has taken the tiny one's fantasy over the last few months. So far I have had to do Masha and the Bear and Peppa Pig. For the first birthday I got away with a nondescript one! And because a character cake would mean high quantities of fondant and therefore sugar, make sure you moderate the quantity that each kid gets to lay their hands on. Kids on a sugar high are best handled alone, not in groups.
The Décor: Rather than the usual rigmarole of crepe papers and balloons which invariably catch the fancy of that one kid who makes it a personal mission to burst every one of them before the party gets over, I prefer more lasting decorations. I decided to go for wall decals that add a lot of colour to the room. Sadly, mine did not come on time, the perils of e-commerce. So I went for the usual fare and yes, all the balloons that my husband had painstakingly blown up met their fate, pretty much before the party was over.
The Food: It is best to keep food for the kids and adults a separate affair. Considering the fact that beyond the cake there are only three things that kids can see. Cake. Cake. And more cake. I decided to make burgers for the kids this time but I guess the cake was just too good. So basically, we had burgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner over the next week.
The 'Return Gifts': Just as there is a designated person to collect all the countless envelopes that are handed over at a marriage reception, you have to designate a person to handover the return gifts. They are the order of the day. And God forbid, if in a moment of madness, you decided to give each child a different return gift, then you better hope that realization does not dawn before they leave the house.
I have been quite diligent in thinking of Return Gifts with each birthday - it was piggy banks for the first, choicest of story books for the second and D-I-Y personalized name bracelets for the third. Of course, I underestimated the time and effort required to make the bracelets while serving cake and juggling juice glasses amidst requests for second and third helpings of cake, but they were worth the effort for sure!
And when you are scrubbing out the last vestiges of food and cake off the floor while holding down an excited toddler who wants to open up all the presents right away, in your heart you know, you will go through all of this again, just for that smile. And they seem to have perfected it, haven't they?
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