I think the standard take on birthday parties for reasonable grown-ups is that they’re a little bit of a necessary evil. Your kids’ friends throw them, so you really are obligated to throw one as well. But you just know a balloon’s going to pop and somebody’s going home crying.
Let me break the mold then, and say this: I actually love birthday parties.
First of all, there’s cake. The average grown up encounters cake far too rarely, and a scoop of ice cream on the side is even more of treat. Who doesn’t want more cake? I actually don’t even care if it’s good cake or bad cake. Surrender to the crunchy, sugary frosting, folks. You know you love it.
Second, I really enjoy the parents of John’s friends. We say hello briefly in halls in the morning or wave from the car as we’re passing by, but there’s far too little time to catch up. We’re in a magical stage right now where the kids want us to stick around at a party, but don’t actually want to talk to us. Let’s take advantage of it! More birthday parties should include cocktails.
Finally: presents. They’re obviously not for me, and I don’t need a stack of toys anyway. But there’s something special about seeing a new toy unwrapped and seeing the birthday boy or girl’s face just light up. And then if you look around, you’ll see that all the other kids are lighting up as well. They don’t even care that this is not their toy–they’re just excited that a toy has emerged from shiny wrapping paper and joined the world. If only we were all this open to surprise and delight.
I know that it won’t be long before birthday parties become more difficult. Maybe there are sticky social situations to be navigated, or you have a birthday that conflict with sports, or your boy decides that girls can’t come. Or whatever it is. But for now, just for the moment, I’m loving every minute. Thank you and happy birthday, little kids! See you at the party.