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We had Joy’s birthday party this weekend – three little girls and one very little brother along with their parents. I gave Joy the choice between her friends her age and her littler friends, and she went with the little ones. She was fine when I told her we weren’t going to have them bring presents – “because our friends are gifts to us from God!” she chirped blithely, leaving me to wonder dazedly if she’d heard that in Sunday School or thought of it all on her own. I didn’t bother decorating, we didn’t have lots of games; I didn’t do anything elaborate for food. We had toys-to-appeal-to-3yos in the girls’ bedroom, a simple hand puppet craft (with paper bags and pre-cut scarecrow templates) and coloring pages in the dining room; we ordered pizza and I made a pumpkin sheet cake (for which I completely forgot candles) and a simple snack mix, and we had water to drink.

And you know what? Everyone had a great time. Despite the fact that there were two three-year-olds, two five-year-olds, a seven-year-old, and a two-year-old (oh! and one baby, who was so chill and calm the entire time I almost forgot about her), there were no squabbles, no fights, and only one meltdown which was over almost as soon as it began. None of the kids seemed the slightest bit upset over how low-key it was, and the parents all seemed delighted by it.

And most importantly, Joy had a marvelous time. She cried a little bit when the one meltdown occurred, but she sat on my lap and then went and played with the baby and was absolutely fine. The only thing that could have made it better for her would have been if we’d remembered the birthday candles, but we all sang to her anyway and I told her to make a wish and blow out the pretend candles, and that made her giggle, and she was fine with having to use her imagination.

Some people can put together elaborate birthday parties and have them be lovely, fun affairs. When I’ve tried that in the past, I end up getting stressed and nothing is done well, and it’s not really all that fun. For me, the simpler the better, and I’ve come to accept that.

If my girls want elaborate parties someday, they can go to their auntie to plan it. She managed to pull off a beautifully elegant, understated birthday party for her one-year-old recently, with less than a week to prepare. That’s not my gift, and that’s something I’m okay with.

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