There’s Christmas season, Easter season, summer season, even a grilling season, but do you have a birthday season? My household does. My husband and middle kiddo share a day in March. My daughter and youngest are 6 days apart in February. I’m all alone in the summer. This mama has four birthdays for which to prepare, cook, buy, and celebrate all in the same 6-8 weeks.
I used to love it when the older two were little. They’re 13 months apart so I’d combine their kid party and do a specialized cake for each. My husband ‘gave up his birthday’ for our first son, so we don’t do much for him. In those days, it seemed easier. Rent a place since our house was tiny and the weather was too cold for outside parties. Make cake or cupcakes to their theme and invite the same group of friends. They’re in middle school now so it’s gotten a bit more complicated. Different friends, sports’ schedules, work schedules are less predictable these days, and demands are… well, more demanding.
Let’s talk about cakes. I made my daughter’s 1st birthday cake into a Winnie the Pooh cake. It was a box cake back when they were bigger, more sturdy, and easier to cut-to-shape. Each year seems to have gotten more complicated. Now box cakes are too moist to mold and definitely smaller.
This year she wanted an ice-cream-themed cake. I tried making cake pops and, since it was much like molding oatmeal, made a mess. Came out okay though and people enjoyed. My little one wanted a Bakugan cake. It’s a kids’ anime show and there was no way I was going to attempt drawing one of those super-epic-awesome-powerful-dragon guys on a cake. I literally stuck a couple toys on the cake and called it themed. Call it laziness or lack of ambition, or simply call it knowing my limits. Maybe I’ve set the bar too high.
The reason we celebrate birthdays is to celebrate the life of the person. It’s definitely out of control in our culture. As parents, we want to give our kids everything, but when we overextend ourselves, we’re not teaching them the values they deserve to know. They need to learn love, true love, which is sacrifice. They need to learn joy, but joy must come from each other, not things. They need to learn moderation, which in first world society is getting harder every day.
When I get too overwhelmed with the chaos of planning and baking and buying and booking, I need to sit down and breathe. I need to ask myself if I’m overdoing it and saying ‘yes’ to too much. After all, it’s just a cake, and it’s just a day on the calendar. If I feel like they’re not learning the value of celebrating life, then I need to slow down. The family party, the kid party, the actual day, it can all be too much when we overemphasize the details. As they get older, maybe I’ll be able to go back to just the cake and family time. For now, I need to make sure I put as much or more energy into teaching values of togetherness as I do the details.