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We were kids in a candy shop. Little Guy and I spent an hour choosing just the right assortment for decorating cupcakes, and we ended up with 13 bowls of goodies…gumdrops, jelly beans, licorice whips, coloured chocolate chips, sprinkles, Skor bits, M&Ms, coloured marshmallows, gummy bears, and 4 different colours of sugar glass. I baked 4 dozen cupcakes (rainbow chip and chocolate fudge). We invited a couple of families with boys over and stuffed ourselves with pizza and “decorate your own cupcakes”. After everyone was gone, the floor was littered with wrapping paper, Lego and building blocks, candy and crumbs…but our hearts were full.

As great as the party was, I still felt a little like a failure as a parent. Little Guy had really wanted a Laser Quest birthday party, but only part of me wanted to get it for him. Part of me was concerned about the cost (and the noise)…and even some of the lessons. Which brings up the questions that have been nagging me all week: When did kids start expecting large birthday parties on a grandiose scale? When did parties become more about entertainment than about friendship or fellowship? Who is setting up who for disappointment or failure? The parent, if I don’t take out a second mortgage on my house to pay for my 8 year olds’ party? Or the child because we didn’t rent a $1,000 party bus?

We (the adults) talked about our birthday parties when we were kids…bringing friends home after school, playing tag outside long after the sun set, munching on hot dogs or pizza before being serenaded in the glow of birthday candles. Who could forget birthday cake with coins wrapped in plastic wrap (who got the quarter)? Some remembered scavenger hunts, while others recalled decorating cupcakes with lots of pink icing. There were a few sleepover parties (at my last sleepover party, the first person asleep had their bra frozen). My first boy-girl party was my sweet 16 in 1950’s costumes. We played lots of goofy games (none of which involved closets or bottles)…and danced a little to Paul Anka. They were all great memories!

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have a lavish party – for girls to have a mani/pedi or for boys to climb a rock wall. And if I sound judgmental, I don’t mean to… I want Little Guy to feel celebrated and I want him to have fun with his friends. But I also want to teach him that while money can buy popularity, it can’t buy lasting friendship. Life can be a grand adventure, even when you aren’t abundantly blessed financially. You may not always get what you want but you can still make happy memories. But most of all, I want him to know that he is loved…not for the entertainment he provided, but simply because of who he is – a loving, funny Little Guy.

Yesterday afternoon, I wiped the chocolate icing off the wall and swept up the candy sugar, while Hubby washed up the pile of dishes. I asked Little Guy what was his favourite part of the party…he thought for only a second before announcing “playing with my friends”. Not the candy or the pizza…nor the loot bags or the presents – the best part turned out to be something that money can’t buy after all…

Birthday CupcakeA Masterpiece in the Making!

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