Sometimes I don't know why I make parenting so hard.
A few years ago I threw a birthday party to end all birthday parties. This thing was an insane display of overactive parenting. I had crafts planned; I had a treasure hunt planned; I had games planned; I had extravagant take-home souvenirs (handcrafted, of course); I was working part-time and nursing an infant who hadn't yet given up 2 a.m. feedings; I was a weepy mess by the time it was all over.
This year we had a combined birthday party for both girls. We invited 3 families, for a total of 6 kids, 2 dogs, and 6 adults. One family had to cancel due to illness, so Saturday had a grand total of 5 kids (including Annika and Frankie), 2 dogs, and 5 adults. I was so lackadaisical about the whole event that I didn't even get around to inviting people until pretty much the day of the party (2 days before was the soonest I invited anyone, and that's just because we had met up anyway). The morning of the party we went to the store and let the girls pick out streamers and balloons. We decorated the basement with just those last-minute basics. No taffeta hanging from the ceiling, no posters, no hand-lettered signs, and yet it all looked very festively party-like. We let the girls help in the decorating, meaning that we ended up with random bits of crepe streamer taped within an inch of its crinkly life all over the furniture. It was great.
I had no schedule, no planned activities, and no theme, given that Annika was lobbying for 12 Dancing Princesses (the new Barbie movie) and Frankie was more for Curious George. I contemplated offering up 12 Dancing Monkeys as a compromise, but in the end I let Annika have the Barbie cake (no Curious George available) and figured that kids all hopped up on sugar would substitute very nicely for monkeys. In the end Frankie was too busy squealing every time the doorbell rang, and hugging Molly the Very Big Dog, and playing endless tag with the other kids to notice the lack of George's very marketable mug at her party.
The girls were still happy with the idea of just having Cleo as their shared birthday present. They were happy with just a few guests, rather than the mad chaos of years past. Mostly they were happy because, really, it's the easiest thing in the world to make a child happy.