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The Four Stages of Planning a Birthday Party.

BC (before children), I did not realize that the first few birthday parties of your child's life were not about the kids themselves. No, no. These parties are all about the adults in the room. Bonus points if your party is Pinterest-worthy.

Moms may mislead you - really, the bounce house seems like it was rented for the kids, but really, it is somehow fulfilling some life-long dream that started with missing out on a bounce house party when mom was four years old. Search on pinterest and you'll see decked out spreads of themed food with beautiful signage. There will be a full suite of paper products, hand crafted by artisan birthday elves. Innovative and interactive theme? Candy buffet? Balloon arch? Party favor? The best parties hit all of the above. 

Really, when you're planning your financials for having a baby, in addition to a line item for diapers, food, clothes, etc, there should be a budget line for birthday parties. Start saving now for that custom designed cake and the live-action Disney characters. 

When my daughter was turning one, I was so sleep deprived and scattered that we were lucky to get the cake ordered. Invitations were made on my computer and emailed out. Decorations consisted of some balloons that my mother in law picked up on the way to the party (she's awesome like that - you know, when you realize you don't have any decorations hours before the party). 

By the time she was turning two, we had attended enough toddler birthdays to realize the real deal about birthdays. With time to think it all through, I was able to get custom designed invitations mailed out (with real stamps! no email invitations for this two year old!), order the custom designed cake to match the invitations, get real decorations, and even book Disney characters to come sing. For a non-Pinterest person, my party was honorable mention status.

And so here we are. Three months away from the third birthday and subsequent party. As I begin to throw myself into party planning mode, I have realized there are four stages of birthday party planning:

Stage One: Inspiration. You go to the garden themed birthday party with "dirt and worms" cupcakes. There's a craft. Tasteful alcohol selection for the parent chaperones. There's a slight breeze (bet they tipped well for the good weather) and everyone is on their best behavior. You're inspired. It may be six months away from your sweet child's birthday, but you're a super mom. You're going to start that pinterest board. You're going to brainstorm ideas. You see that American Ninja Warrior birthday parties are all the rage. Seems do-able. You've got six months after all. You're going to win at this.  

Stage Two: Action. Somehow, months have passed. It is now exactly a month prior to your child's birthday. You've only just realize this thanks to timehop and an inquisitive aunt. You're too busy running errands, cleaning yogurt off the dog's back (what?), and potty training. Where did super party planning mom go? Oh right - she's hiding from her toddler in the closet with a bottle of wine. You pull back up the pinterest board you sacrificed so many hours of sleep for and choose the party idea that seems to have the best return: the least amount of work for the best impression. Simple birthday party economics. A donut party it is. And, after all, your toddler loves donuts. Bonus points because a breakfast party means mimosas - and, after all, the toddler party days must include alcohol for the adults. You hop on etsy, order the cutest donut invitations ever, and mail those suckers out. 

Stage Three: PanicThree weeks? How have three weeks passed? You have nothing together. Nothing to show for your life. Well - one trip to Walmart solves that. It turns out that Walmart is birthday party utopia. You need it? They have it. You start to wonder if Walmart is actually one of those Chronicles of Narnia type places where the inside is infinitely bigger than the actual building - a portal via wardrobe to a magical world full of pinatas, balloons, streamers, and ribbon. Four hours and several hundred dollars later, you walk out with everything you need. 

Stage Four: Contentment. The day has come. You've spent several days wistfully scrolling through years of pictures on your phone, perfectly cultivating the collage to post on your darling's birthday. Words can't describe what it feels like to have a three year old. How is three so much older than two? Why is time so ruthless? One minute they are swaddled up in a blanket and the next you're packing them for college. Your sweet little toddler has been talking about the party for days. Excitement is contagious and you get butterflies as well. Friends and family start to arrive. Everyone is lovely, the children are moderately well behaved, and the birthday kid feels special. It was all worth it. And you're done.

Until next year..


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