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Why Am I Ashamed of Our Modest Birthday Party Plans?

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When I pressed "send" for my son's birthday party invitation, I had a mini panic attack. I felt like I couldn't breathe, as sweat pooled on my brow. Did I really just invite 10 little kids to come to my house to have lunch and cake to celebrate my son?

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I checked my "sent" folder. Yep, there it was: my email with the spirited subject line Come help us celebrate! The body of the invitation was only five lines, which was all it took to give everyone the relevant information, such as our address, the date and time.

I was panicking because it felt like it wasn't enough. My husband and I wanted to celebrate my son on his third birthday, but we weren't prepared to rent out a jump house or mortgage our own house to have a birthday party at one of the commercial places in Chicago. We'd debated for weeks, but kept coming back to our gut feeling that we should keep it simple. Early in the debate we consulted the birthday boy. When asked what he wanted, he said, "Cake."

"That's it?" I asked.

"And some superhero presents."

His desires were simple.

Why was I making this so hard?

Still, I wondered if people would think we were cheap.

As the planning moved forward, I had a hard time trusting my gut. I tried to remember that, 1) he's only 3 so there's plenty of time for bigger and better parties; 2) we don't have to do what other people do and 3) we were going to find ways to make it special (think: piñata). Still, I wondered if people would think we were cheap. Then, I wondered if we actually are cheap.

The morning after I sent the invite, every single person had RSVP'd "yes" except for one friend who has an out-of-town bar mitzvah that day. No one seemed put off by our modest party plans. I let go of being ashamed and focused on ordering the cake and checking Pinterest for good party games.

Once the fever broke, I realized how happy I was to be living within both our means and our values. I've got nothing against big birthday parties—I love watching my kids enjoy those events, and someday they may be just right for us. But it didn't feel right for our family this time.

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I'm grateful that we stuck to our plans because it's exactly the kind of decision that I want to model for my kids—that even though most people we know have fancier and more elaborate parties, we did what was best for us and trusted that it was, indeed, enough.

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