Saturday, January 8, 2011

Its my party and I'll cry if I want to

So another year is here and in our house that means one very important thing: birthday season is in full force. Rhian starts our family's celebrations on December 18, then we run headlong into Christmas and all that that holidays brings. By New Years I have to be planning Morgan's party, as her big day is January 11, and invitations generally go out the Monday they return to school. Steven's birthday is 3 days later on the 14th, then its mine in February (shortly after Valentines Day) and finally, Owen's on March 3rd. Add several grandparents, cousins and uncles birthdays in between all those and it makes for a busy but exciting few months. This year, however, it seems its not so exciting for at least one of us.

This year Morgan and I are having a "disagreement" over her party preparations, and I am not sure if this is the pre-teen rearing its ugly head or the case of the spoiled child who all of a sudden realizes that growing up means changes she may not be ready for. When the kids were little we always went all out to make their day special; we would have a party, invite family over and make them their choice of a birthday meal. We always said at some point we would tone it down, shorten the guest list and make the party side of it more low key. For Morgan, this time has come and she's not having any of it.

I shouldn't paint the picture that she is being ungrateful and mouthy about it, thats not fair and not Morgan at all. That would almost be better, in a way. Instead she is sullen, has lost interest in planning her party and dragging her heals about telling me who she wants to invite, what food she wants and what they may want to do. When we first started talking about her party, she began naming off all these grand ideas: a boy/girl outdoor snow party, a Rock Band Party (also boy/girl, of course), a day a the spa for her and her girlfriends, etc, etc. I immediately nipped that in the bud and told her it would be a sleepover - with no more than 5 girls - a movie, some pizza and a cake. More than I had when I was 12, I tell you that! But this is a girl who has never had a restriction on her guests, has always had her choice of venue and has enjoyed many long talked about parties in her day. She even had a kick-ass Halloween party with 10 girls overnight right after arriving here. Now I see I have done her a disservice.

There were tears when I broke the news to her, and talk about not wanting to get older. I believe I even heard the words, " its not fair." Of course I gave her the lecture about being 6 years older than her little sister (who just had a big party), reminded her of her 6th birthday party when she had 14 little girls over for a tea party, complete with princess costumes - when I had a 3 week old baby no less. I talked about how there are both pros and cons about getting older and didn't she enjoy the perks of being the oldest with her very own laptop, her cell phone, her later bedtime and the babysitting money she makes?? All very good points, which of course she conceded to in the end. So how come I didn't feel any better when she dried her tears and walked away with her head hanging down?

I know in my heart its time to tone it down in the birthday party department. I know if I keep up this pace it will get away on me very quickly and we will never be able to pull it back. I know that I just don't have it in me to pull off a gigantic party right now, after the busy holidays while Daddy is away, my mother - who is not used to a house full of preteens - is here and I am beginning a serious job hunt. This time of year money is tight, time is short and nerves are frayed. But none of those things are her fault and I hope I am not simply making her suffer for it all.

Over all, I don't feel like our kids are spoiled. They know there are people worse off than us, but there are many that are better off. They understand that we both have to work to pay for the house we live in and the cars we drive, they know money doesn't grow on trees and that with three of them they can't possibly participate in every activity out there, so they choose one. But then I look around the house we live in and see the multitude of electronics, the 5 tv's versus the 1 we grew up with, the piles of toys, the 4 computers, the inground pool...and I wonder if we're setting them up for believing life is easier than it really is. We always want our kids to have a better life than we grew up with, but our lives were pretty great growing up so have we taken that too far?

For now I feel like we're doing the right thing in cutting down her party, its not like we told her she couldn't have one at all. Something tells me, however, that when it comes to teenage tears and disappointing the kids...this is only the beginning.


Melanie said...

I know exactly what you are saying. We are the same, My birthday is Jan 10, my neice's on Jan. 27th.Then Gemma's and my Dad's are both on March 1. Anthony's is March 12. My Dad's wife's is March 27th. Then Easter....and throwing a birthday party is EXPENSIVE!! No matter what you do...
I on the other hand am different. I feel bad saying this, and my sister thinks we're terrible. My kids have never had a birthday party. We have always had family over for cake, but other than that, nothing with friends. Only because they already have more toys than they play with, and honestly as horrible as this sounds, my nerves can't handle 15 kids at one time!!
It wasn't so bad before, but since Anthony started school, and is being invited to other kid's parties, I feel guilty. So, the past 2 years, instead of a birthday party we took them to Chrystal Palace for a weekend, with my sister and her kids. (It was their choice, chyrstal palce or a b-day party.We couldn't affod to do both)
But this year, I have changed my ways of thinking. I still remember all birthday parties form when I was a kid, so really they must really mean alot. Plus Anthony is really shy, and at the beginning of the school year, it took him awhile to come around to all of his old friends that he made in primary. He played by himself at school for the first 3 weeks, and it broke my heart. I started thinking it was my own fault, for not giving him a social life outside of school. The only kids he played with outside of school were his cousins. So this year, Anthony is having his first birthday party!!! We are doing a skating party at the Stadium. Then we are having snacks, and hot chocolate and cake. He is quite excited!! I on the other hand....all I can say, is God give me strength!!
I always loved looking at your pictures on facebook of your kids cakes, and parties!! I don't think you should feel bad about slowing things down, for Morgan. You have to at some point, and if it were up to them, it would never happen!
I am the same way with my kids, I always want them to have a better life than I did growing up...but really when I look back, there was nothing I would change from my childhood! So maybe it's just us??
You know I still remember a Halloween party I went to at your house in Grade 5 maybe?? And I remember we had to put our hands in all this gross slimy stuff. I think one was cold spaghetti, and your sister (I think, was dressed as a witch) told us it was worms. And one was peeled grapes, and we were told it was eyeballs! Such great memories!!
Anyway, good luck with Morgan! I think you guys are awesome parents, and do an excellent job with your kids!! xoxo

Michelle said...

Thanks so much Mel, for your feedback. I think the Chrystal Palace idea is a great one! But you're right, I too have great memories of parties when I was a kid. Along with that Halloween one - mom and I were just talking about that the other day!
Kids birthday parties are indeed very stressful, I think I only really began throwing the ones I did because the Cummings family is known for its parties - for every occasion - and felt the need (and the pressure) to follow suit. I am really glad now though that I gave the kids those memories, but am secretly so glad that for at least one of them, its slowing down.
I only just realized you started a blog in March, so I decided to "follow" it, I really hope you continue to update us on your beautiful family and all your adventures! I would love to read about Anthony's upcoming birthday party and all that that entails. You will do fine, I just know it, and Anthony will have the memories forever.
Thanks for reading, and commenting....good luck!! xo

SwedishJenn said...

Hi Mel and Michelle! I gotta say, I think you're both doing the right thing here and for very different reasons. I gotta say, I'm pretty luck living here in Sweden where a kid's birthday party is the most low-key affair EVER. Unlike the high-pressure and disgustingly expensive, "Keeping up with Joneses" parties I'm hearing about back home. It really is all about the kids, not the showing off portion. It's usually at someone's house and involves hot dogs, juice, cake and playtime. That's it. And the kids leave with a small bag of candy. Must cost like $20 and the headache of clean-up. For Joe we had his party at a local indoor play area and it really wasn't too expensive. I just didn't want the clean-up headache and it was the best decision ever for me. Though I'm sure we'll feel the pressure when we do eventually move home, I will certainly try my absolute best to keep it a low-key affair.
Way to go Mel and Michelle for both doing right by your kids. xo