Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Oh, alright. Yeah. Uh, let's see. Um, well, we can throw out birthdays immediately."

Today was a birthday day. One of my friends turned 31. He met us at IKEA, we wished him "happy birthday," we hung out for a few hours, and then parted ways. It was also my niece's 8th birthday. She had 12 little friends over, and I heard all about her parents (and M, following a mountain bike ride with this niece's dad) running frantically about trying to get everything ready.

I have another niece who's b-day party was last weekend. My cousin's daughter is having a 1st birthday next weekend. My SIL's having a "small birthday get together" the weekend after that - the same weekend as another niece's b-day. Then a wedding shower, a wedding, yet another niece's birthday. Alas, you (hopefully) get my point.

Now, please don't mistake me. Birthdays are all wonderful celebrations. I'm not anti-birthday. Really. But, by now, many of you know about my keenness, no - absolute drive and necessity, for opting out of madness and chaos of all varieties. If you're not as acquainted with my sanity-saver-seeking as you'd like to be, you can read this to get you up to speed.

Anyhow, M mentioned to our SIL, as they were all behaving like headless chickens, that we're really thinking of "not doing birthdays". She responded "well, that's strange". He never really elaborated, and now she must either think us misers or humbugs. I'm hoping she knows us better than that, was just a little miffed he was raining on her birthday party parade, and is going to ask us to expound later. But, I digress.

I'm not anti-birthday. I'm anti- birthday party. I have 9 nieces and nephews in my family and 14 nieces and nephews (and 7 great nephews) on M's side. Now, I should qualify the numbers in M's family by saying that his is an older family and there aren't nearly as many birthday parties - at least not that we're invited to - as there are on my side. Maybe his side has given up. I think my family has nearly given up, too, and that they now only invite us to be nice. That's because we no-show almost all birthday parties. We didn't use to.

There was a time we went to every party. Then, somewhere in the middle of working full time and attending school more-than-full-time, we lost track of days, sometimes months, and we had essentially NO social life. So, birthday parties were hit and miss. Then I'd feel guilty that I got one nephew something and went to his party, but totally missed the other nephew's. So, now we don't go to many at all. Mostly First birthdays and other such "special occasion birthdays".

See, there's this whole psychology with birthdays. I can't find anything to document this overarching generalization; I just know it. Don't believe me? Just think about it for a sec: you get invited to a birthday party, and no matter how vehemently the inviter insists "it doesn't matter if you bring a gift", you feel an overwhelming sense of obligation to show up with something. Plus, if that one kid in your kid's class invited your kid to his party, now you have to invite that kid to your kid's party. And then you find that so-and-so's mom had such-and-such theme, so now you can't do it but you'll feel an underachiever if you don't come up with an equally (or more) fabulous theme.

Taken in sum like this, it's really and truly paralyzing for people. People like me. And it's all nonsense. And for years and years, I've vowed not to fall into that trap when I have kids. And now I've finally found some alternatives to the rampant birthday party insanity. Curious? Then take a look here and see for yourself.

And if you agree, I'd love to hear why. If you disagree or think I'm overshooting it just a bit, I'd love to hear that to.

[Title quote is from "Seinfeld" ('Cuz I only quote TV shows I really, really like)]


Caroline said...

I myself don't do birthday parties. We've had one combined party, and that pretty much did me in. Now, we just have our own little family party. It's great.

I'm SO with you on this one!

Jen said...

I am w/ you too! I hate the big huge blown up parties. We usually just have dinner w/ some family over and sometimes none. My family doesn't really do anything for b-days so that works well for a low key day. But I love love love my b-day and want it to be special so I try to make the kids special. but special doesn't mean inviting over 30 family and friends and spending over $100 on food and getting way too many toys. so yep, low key for me too, and my kids so far don't complain.

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