I remember last year feeling so lost at the idea of how to plan a birthday party for my then-three-year-old. I knew Sloan would be overwhelmed by the idea of having 20 kids (and their parents) gathered around to celebrate her, but we pushed forward regardless. Since all of the other children in her class were doing it, I didn't question if it was the right decision for us. But that's all changed this year.
Sloan is funny—sometimes she's incredibly outgoing and such a performer, only to be overstimulated and anxious the next moment. And crowds are probably her biggest trigger. When you think about it though, 20 kids is a lot for any kid to handle, prone to anxiety or not. I recently read a helpful way to gage how many kids should be at your child's party: Invite as many kids as the year they're turning. So technically that would mean four kids this year. But at least at Sloan's school, there's an unwritten rule that we have to include the entire class at parties, which makes that advice somewhat moot—and leaves me at a crossroads.
A friend of mine recently told me that she always offers her kids one of two options: Going to Disneyland or having a party. And I recognize two things here: 1. This really only applies if you live in Southern California and 2. How much of a luxury this is since a day at the park is incredibly expensive. I was somewhat relieved when, as my friend's kids do, Sloan selected Disneyland (no surprise there).
We'll still have family (and friends like family) over to celebrate her with a cake and some balloons, but I'm still unsure of how to approach future parties, since they've shifted so much since I was a kid. I'm not sure if this is something only relevant to L.A. or perhaps it's the Pinterest generation of making sure everything is flawlessly designed, but it's a lot to navigate. When I was young, I'd have a few friends over and we'd play Pin The Tail On The Donkey, take a few swings at a piñata, and finish with cake. I want to do what's right and best for Sloan, and as a parent, it's hard to not always have the answers.
Last year, I remember watching Sloan at her own party, trying to make sure she was enjoying every moment of it. On our way home, I was practically in tears, since I questioned if she had had fun at all. In retrospect, it's clear she did, but in her own way. I've come around to understand that however Sloan acts—even if that's reserved and slightly withdrawn—it's okay. In fact, it's perfect. I can't expect her to behave in a way that I would classify as "having fun," since that varies from person to person. So what that she waited until the bounce house wasn't filled with twelve little boys so that she could have the entire place to herself? I've unintentionally put a lot of my own worries and concerns on Sloan and I need to change that.
So for her fourth birthday next week, we'll be at Disneyland, meeting her favorite characters, eating way too many treats, and riding the tea cups until we're dizzy. I can't wait to celebrate this incredible child of ours and to reinforce the importance of always doing what's right for her.
I'd love to hear: How do you approach your kids' birthdays? Please share your tips, tricks, and thoughts in the comments! x