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About That Pinterest Princess Party, Let Me Explain

Photograph by Twenty20

I guess there was no going back once I'd hired the princess.

My soon-to-be 4-year-old had only recently discovered princesses, but already knew she wanted a princess birthday party. To Pinterest I went.

As I perused the pins, I did have a lingering thought in the back of mind. Was I contributing to unrealistic mom expectations? Had I caved to mom pressure? Before I could make up my mind, I stumbled on my first cute party idea—a candy necklace craft. Then, a color scheme—petal pink and lilac.

Just like that, any mom guilt faded into the glittery background of party planning.

Here's what I learned about throwing a kid's birthday party: If you don't set boundaries at the outset, you'll go overboard. It's easy to set high expectations for yourself when you consider the quality of the pint-sized parties you see on the internet.

I'm talking fancy linens, hand-dipped rice crispy pops and cake consultations.

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So I set my limits. Paper invitations, no piñata, no elaborate cooking. Yes to catering, yes to balloons, yes to a cool cake. Store-bought decorations over handmade. While I love the made-from-scratch vibe, it's worth remembering that many of those inspiring birthday party pins featuring twine and ribbon are the work of professional party planners. I'm one mom. But one mom can do quite a bit, as moms know.

I'm one mom. But one mom can do quite a bit, as moms know.

Along with adjusting expectations, it's a good idea to set a budget. Because once you start shopping, you kinda get swept up.

You might find yourself, like I did, standing in Party City wondering how I could throw a princess party without this giant unicorn balloon? A princess would definitely have a unicorn for a friend, you think to yourself, as you add it to your cart. “Bring a touch of magic to your little one's party” says the product description on their website. That might in fact be the impetus of these fantastical fetes.

Not unicorns, but magic.

My daughter was turning 4, the age at which imagination and innocence are at their zenith. If you're going to have a magical birthday, age 4 might be the best age to have it. Or so I told myself when I booked the princess.

The flip-side of that magic is the stress you'll put yourself through to achieve it. Even the smallest party requires invitations, follow-ups, supply shopping, cleaning, food prep, hosting and post-party clean up. All this has to be done in the background of your usual mom duties.

In a way, a birthday party is a microcosm of mom life—taking care of everything and everyone else before yourself (fueled by love and caffeine).

There will be moments that make you laugh, like when I sat down to sketch a castle cake.

You'll have frazzled moments along the way. Pinterest fails. Last-minute cancelations. You'll find yourself wondering if next year it might not be better to do a party-alternative, like taking a day trip somewhere. There will be moments that make you laugh, like when I sat down to sketch a castle cake. There will be some that make you wince, like when I got the bill for said cake. There will be moments of awe, like when we sang "Happy Birthday" to our smiling daughter under the glow of birthday candles.

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The princess I hired dazzled the kids with stories, songs, face-painting, games and a special coronation for our daughter. She arrived on time and, as prearranged, was paid discreetly, out of sight from little ones. In short, she was a pro. My daughter said goodbye and added, “You have to go back to your castle.” “Yes, I do,” the princess replied sweetly. My heart!

After the last guest left, I hugged our daughter in our balloon-strewn living room. “Did you like your birthday party, sweetheart?” I asked.

“It was the best birthday ever,” she said.

I knew I'd do it all over again next year.

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