In Defense Of Birthday Parties

I read a post on BlogHer last week about a mom who has no interest in throwing her kid a Pinterest-style birthday party. I’m not going to link to it directly since I’m not trying to criticize or start a fight with the author. You can easily find it if you want to read the original but the gist was this: “We do low-key parties. I sent some email invites and invited 2 friends and my kid had a super good time…” The part that came after those ellipses was unspoken by the author but was obvious in the comment section. It ranged from “…so planning a big, extravagant party is stupid” to “…so your way is a waste of time” to “…which makes me a better mom because I spent more time with my kid than you did because you were on Pinterest looking for ways to make cupcakes in a mason jar.”

WHOA WHOA WHOA. While I can agree with the premise of the original post (You don’t NEED matching place settings to have a nice birthday! Kids don’t really care!) I would like to register my extreme disagreement with the idea that throwing a Pinterest-inspired kid’s birthday party makes me anything except for someone who likes throwing parties.

I am not a better mom. I am not a worse mom. I am not a busier mom. I am not a slacker mom. I am not a more involved mom. I am not a mom who never plays on the floor with her kids. I am not interested in comparing my kid’s birthday party to your kid’s birthday party. YOU DO YOU. I am just doing something that makes me and my kid happy.

What’s that you say? This sounds just like everything else about parenting? Why yes, I believe you’re correct! Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, make your own baby food, baby-led weaning, cloth diapers, disposable diapers, organic sawdust filled diapers, daycare, preschool, homeschool, unschool, upside-down school, WHATEVER. The effort/non-effort you are willing to put into any of those things doesn’t have anything to do with me. Stop making it a comparison. If you hate it, don’t do it!

I swear to you – double-dog, pinkie-swear, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-stick-a-thumbtack-in-my-eye swear – that when I bring my kid to your kid’s birthday party at Chuck E Cheese the ONLY thing I am thinking is “Hmmm…Will anyone notice if I eat 4 pieces of pizza?” I am grateful we were invited because it means my kid isn’t a total jerk. I am glad to be out of the house. I am EXTRA glad if there is store-bought cake, since we all know that’s really the best kind. I’ve been to birthdays ranging from 3 kids just hanging out to 30 kids and a bounce house and my kid had fun at all of them.

When I started this big, fancy birthday party thing for Evan’s 1st there WAS no Pinterest. It was the Stone Ages of party planning, where I had to rely on Google Image Search and my own brain. I didn’t even know about paper straws. But I started the planning ball rolling and it just…kept going. I liked it. It was fun, it kept me busy, it was a creative outlet I had been missing during that first hectic new-baby year. Evan REALLY enjoyed his birthday and I enjoyed the compliments. Now it’s become my Thing – birthdays, baby showers, Halloween, whatever – and I’m going to keep doing it as long as the kids are still excited about it. Although one day I’m sure we’ll do Chuck E Cheese – and this year we’re doing a store-bought cake too.

Whew. That was 400 words more than I was planning on writing and probably 600 words more than I actually needed.

TL:DR version – Parties are cool, do whatever you want.

If what you want is a vintage train themed party with an orange and blue color scheme, here’s what I’m planning for Evan’s 4th. I’ve bought about 75% of this already and I’m making/hunting down/crowd-sourcing the rest.

Vintage Train Birthday Party

Vintage Train Birthday Party by bebehblog on Polyvore

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32 Responses to “In Defense Of Birthday Parties”

  1. Lauren says:

    I LOVE planning and throwing parties! It started with my wedding nearly 6 six years ago which was before Pinterest and even before so many DIY blogs existed. I’m sure that if those sites existed back then, my wedding would have been way more elaborate!

    There are many ‘mom things’ that I suck at, but throwing parties for the people I love is not one of them. I want my kids and their friends to have fun, and I love to go crazy with a theme. But if my kids wanted a Chuck E Cheese party? Then they’ll have a Chuck E Cheese party. It’s all good!

  2. Stacia says:

    Couldn’t agree more. You said it perfectly – I particularly loved the organic sawdust filled diapers and upside down school. Also! Here’s a tip for eating more pizza under the radar – put more on your kids’ plates than they will eat.

  3. Meagan says:

    Great post mama! I completely agree. It takes all kinds of moms…some moms want to throw giant parties, some moms want to spend a whole day doing “their favorite things ever” and some moms invite their best friend over for a movie night. It doesn’t matter! You’re celebrating your kiddo and their special day, and sadly there’s a whole lot of kids out there who don’t even get that. You keep rockin’ your awesome parties!

  4. Emily says:

    Well said. I’ve just been having this discussion with some friends. K’s 1st was a huge “pinteresty” birthday. Since then we’ve been to a whole range of parties, all of them fun. Now that I’m planning his 2nd party, I’ve been feeling self-conscious about doing it up the way I want to… but in the end, you’re right… If we take pleasure in it, then go for it! Kids are kids… they just want to run around and shove food in their mouths anyways (wait, I think that’s me, too).

  5. Leah says:

    But what if I WANT to be offended by your awesomeness? Seriously though, as long as there’s cake and present, kids don’t give a poop. Calder keeps begging me for his next party to be at Chuckie Cheese. Kill me now.

    Oh! My mom and I have had tons of luck finding those striped conductor overalls at thrift stores. Those things last FOREVER so there is almost always at least one pair hanging around.

    • bebehblog says:

      I have been to FOUR consignment shops and they have no overalls in any sizes bigger than 18 months. They’ve gotten rid of all their winter merchandise and moved straight to bathing suits and shorts, which, NO. I live in New England. But I ordered a pair right from OshKosh for a reasonable $15.

      • Audrey says:

        Um, I just spied about 4-6 overalls hanging on a clearance rack at Target the other day. I’m pretty sure they were toddler sizes though I didn’t look at their tags to see which.

  6. MKP says:

    You forgot the other awesome part of Chuck E Cheese which is obviously skeeball. GEEZ.

  7. Other Erin says:

    I now have a new fear: rather than making fun of me for being “older than the internet” my children will say I’m “older than Pinterest.”

  8. Amanda says:

    If you AND your kid love it, that’s great, knock yourself out. I haven’t read the original post, but I like to speculate wildly, so I’m wondering if the mother in question has been to a number of pinteresty parties with tons of kids where the child whose birthday it was was absolutely miserable. That has been my own experience, and is why I would never personally throw a party like that.

    I know for a fact that my kid would hate it, so if you know that yours love it, then that’s great. The issue that I see is when the mom is someone (like you) who loves to throw big parties, and the kid is someone (like mine) who feels completely overwhelmed/scared in that environment. It’s sad when you go to a big birthday party for a little kid and it’s painfully obvious that the guest of honour is terrified by all the craziness and clearly would have vastly preferred something on a much smaller scale.

    As for any judgment expressed in the original blog post, I suspect that that is a defensive maneuver. Most people do not express the acceptance that you wrote about in this post. Most of the “big party” moms I know are super judgmental about those of us who prefer (or who think our kids prefer) smaller parties, and drop lots of hints about how we should put more time into party planning, they can show us how pinterest works, come on, it’s not so bad, you’re just being lazy, why don’t you want to do this for your kid?????

  9. Alena says:

    I love this. Because I am some where in between and this year I’m specifically doing a party at a park where I won’t be able to do as much. Specifically because I WANT to do more and just don’t have the time. This way I have a way to control MYSELF.

  10. Kristin says:

    I try so hard to focus on making the party something my husband and I and my kid will enjoy–and filter out all the other comments. It’s for us and if others don’t have a good time, that’s on them.

  11. Audrey says:

    I looooooove the pictures of all the stuff you do at your parties. I wish I had the stamina/budget for all of the things you do. I really do. I try my best and I think I’m somewhere between what the BlogHer poster does and you do. I also get really dreamy-eyed at birthday parties we’ve been to at the Zoo, at bounce houses and at Chuck E. Cheese. Although, I have no interest in a birthday party at the Chuckster’s house, my kid adored the time there. We’ve told him we might take him again for something’s like child vegas in that place. For some reason the cost of having parties at those places makes me blanch..but if I really looked at what I spend on all the food I make and the decorations and the super hero costume masks I made, etc. for Ev’s last party..I’d probably find it’s not much more. Probably. Mostly in the food department. lol! Still…I would give my left leg for you to come throw a party for my kids. You have a real talent there, and I really think that when the kids are in school full time you should think about opening your own business.

  12. TheNextMartha says:

    Party on sister.

  13. Betsy says:

    Suzanne, well-said. Everyone needs a creative outlet, and party planning is yours. Mine is cupcakes (when I have the time). If I lived in CT, I’d see a lucrative party-planning/cupcake business in our future. LOL. Seriously though, you do what makes you (and your kids) happy. Other folks can hate on Pinterest, but it’s everyone’s choice what they get out of it, or not. It’s a virtual idea board…no more, no less. Surely, there are better ways for people to waste their energies than to say “my way is better”?!

  14. emily says:

    I do a smaller scale party compared to yours but have used some of your ideas for my daughters party last year, and her her upcoming 2nd birthday, which is next Saturday!

  15. Fionnuala says:

    As a momma who has done both types of parties, I can say we enjoy both!!! Some years my spouse has been away, I have been writing a dissertation etc etc.. Turn into parties with my family, pizza from our local place, and cupcakes from Big Y (best ever). Other years there has been an little extra money, or time has been on my side etc… And we have gone all out with actual tiered homemade cakes, balloons, and cotton candy machines.
    This year O & L (nephew, like a second child) turn 5 within the same 6 week span. And do you know what? It’s been a long, loving, challenging, rewarding, proud, amazing, growing, exciting, bittersweet 5 years. My daughter, my spouse, myself have all accomplished soo much in these 5 years! O & L are the center of our universe and everything we do is for them.

    So in response to our total awesomeness, and the kids amazingness to grow into these tiny, sweet, caring, compassionate human beings. To reward the work, sacrifice, and time it took to get here. Here happy, healthy, and loving. This year we party. I mean 100 people, and a bounce house. And do you know what else, I will have matching place settings. Why? The two most precious humans in my life deserve to be celebrated, and all the people that helped make them awesome and supported us deserve a party.

    I know I am blessed to be able to throw such a party, but I will not apologize for it. Party on!!!

  16. Erin says:

    “(I disagree that it) makes me anything except for someone who likes throwing parties” – I love this part!!! I think you said it so well. You are totally right. It is all about the kind of party YOU (the parent) like to throw. The kids enjoy them all! I love the train theme! How exciting. I hope we are there for it. I have a couple of little suitcases like the ones in the picture if you want to use them. (and the hat and overall, but I think every little boy might have those overalls) Anyway, can’t wait to hear more about the party plans. So cute!

  17. molly says:

    Oh, I love you Suzanne. I must admit, I get tired with planning big parties and this comes from someone who used to be a wedding planner!!! I prefer to do low-key but I really do enjoy looking at everyone else’s parties. I plan on doing a big one for Landon’s 5th! Go on with your bad party planning self! Rock what you got :)

  18. Babe_Chilla says:

    I have a thing about parties. I can turn a 4 person dinner party in to a FULL OUT AFFAIR. I do it for the same reasons you do – because I LOVE it.

    Only now, I worry people think I am trying to show them up or prove a point. When really the only point I’m trying to prove is “eff YA PARTY TIME”.

    So I hear you, it’s really stupid. And you’re right, it has yet to matter how much or little hand made effort or location decor has been present, my kid has had a kick ass time at every party she’s been to. Homegirl brings the party so if you want to give her a balloon or let her ride in one, it’s all the same to her.

  19. alana says:

    Thank you for this. I catch so much shit from people about party planning sometimes. BUT I LOVE IT! AND I love to do it for Declan and will love it the same for Everly. And you know what? He loves it. He loved his last party and still talks about it. I want my kids to look back on parties and remember how fun they were regardless of where they were or what they looked like. That is the most important thing! I just happen to like getting crazy and stressing myself out!!

  20. Robyn says:

    I was wondering why you were looking so hard for overalls, lol! yes, I am creepy and follow people on twitter but hardly ever atually “tweet”.

  21. Beth Anne says:


    I throw these kinds of parties because they bring me joy right now & Harry can’t care less what kind of party he has. When he asks me to simply rent space at Chuck E Cheese, I will do it for him.

  22. I hate when other make you feel bad for having a big party or not having a big party or whatever. Have the party you and your kid want to have. Not the one you think someone expects you to have or because you think you need to “one up” someone. That said, I am planning a yellow and blue “fast train” 4th birthday party. Happy 4th b’day to your little one.

  23. Brigid Keely says:

    the problem with big parties– and I am NOT saying you do this– is that in some circles it is expected and if you don’t do it you’re a bad person. It’s a really judgmental and competitive thing that is not about the KIDS at all.

    Like, I have literally heard people decrying store bought valentines cards, things that have been around for DECADES, because omigosh if you REALLY cared you’d make HOME MADE ones. If you were a GOOD PARENT and not a LAZY SLACKER you’d MAKE valentines.


    And so there’s backlash to THAT attitude, which is a really entitled, privileged attitude to have.

    I think you’re really right that this ties into the whole attachment parenting olympics thing.

    I really love your party planning. I like when you talk about it, when you share ideas, when you post photos of it. And a big part of why I like it is because YOU seem like you’re having a good time, and your kids and guests all look like they are having a good time too. And that’s the most important part, right?

    We’re doing a train-themed party for Niko’s birthday. He’s 4 so I’m going to decorate a round cake with a “4” on it in Gordon The Train’s colors (blue, red, yellow) and do a Thomas/Gordon theme. We’re using some store bought licensed plates! There will be streamers! Possibly a party game! It’s not really going to be Pinterest worthy, but it’s going to be fun.

  24. Anna says:

    you like it, you are really, really good at it. That’s all that matters..
    You should think about a book though ;-) I’d buy it

  25. Ally says:

    I like the creative outlet too, so I like doing cute decorations, planning a menu, and cooking, even though our parties have been small and laid back. On the other hand, I’m also looking forward to a simple Stay and Play party when my kids are old enough to have friends to invite. All that really matters is that the kids have fun, I don’t think anyone can argue with that.

  26. merin says:

    At least you throw your kids birthday parties! I can hardly be bothered with getting a cupcake. I just keep telling myself that I’m saving at all for when they really care. Sadly for me that time has come as Cora has been VERY specific about her 4th birthday party (I was really hoping to get away with another year of NOTHING).

    Your parties are the best-we love them. And you are the best and most gracious hostess, because not all moms keep their composure when a guest throws up all over their carefully planned and brilliantly executed party!!

  27. Alexandra says:

    I think Pinterest is getting way to much credit for what we used to call having a decorator’s eye, a great design sense, fabulous style, creative energy. It’s bookmarks with pictures, people.

  28. I love planning birthday parties, its just the execution where I struggle :)

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