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The Crazy Things I Did For My Kid's Birthday Party Almost Killed Me

Photograph by Twenty20

I had been up working for over 24 hours straight. I hadn’t showered, had lost track of how much coffee I’d consumed, and my husband mentioned more than once that he thought I was insane. I tuned out his worried looks, took a deep breath and steeled myself to finish the job ahead.

But this hysteria wasn’t to meet a deadline for a client. I was making goodie bags for my daughter’s 8th birthday party.

These weren’t just ordinary goodie bags. These were little art boxes that I’d filled with small pencils and cute erasers I’d spent hours shopping for. I’d made customized labels for each of the 25 kids who were coming to the party—dropping their names into the artwork I’d created in Photoshop, printing them out and hand-cutting each one out with pinking shears. Then I used my own tears instead of glue to affix those labels to the boxes.

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And guess what? Not a single one of those eight-year-olds was impressed with my magnificent creations. Sure, a few of the parents might have oohed and aahed, but the kids were more obsessed with the single piece of candy I’d put in the box. I recall even my own daughter failing to compliment me on my font choice or die-cutting skills.

So sad I had to ground her on her own birthday.

It appears I’m not alone in my birthday party craziness. Besides wanting to make the day extra special for our kids, it’s a chance for parents to let their creativity—and carpentry skills—shine.

“I handmade dinosaur invitations to my son's birthday party that involved multiple layers that were held together by rivets that I hammered into each one,” Glennia C. recalls of her son’s 4th birthday party. “My husband thought I was building an addition to our house due to all the hammering.”

Some, like me, felt the pain of rejection when our creations weren’t granted the respect they deserved.

“I pulled apart a Chinese takeout box to make a template,” Sugar J. started out. “It took me 24 hours to cut cute paper and then glue it onto 18 takeout boxes."

“They tore the boxes open in two minutes flat. TORE! Not opened gently... TORE them open. Then, as if pieces of my heart weren't bleeding in each box, tossed them like trash into the garbage can.”

I designed and sewed 12 monster plush dolls, each one different for each kid...

Then there are those whose efforts just make the rest of us want to sit down and do the slow-clap.

“Probably the most labor intensive party was my daughter's 10th or 11th, where the whole Girl Scout troop was here,” says Kirsten D. “I made fifteen 6" cakes for them to each decorate. They also decorated their own apron to take home.”

And never underestimate the power of a theme—or the determination to see that theme through as only a mom can.

“When my son was two, he was obsessed with garbage trucks. He would run to the window every week to watch them lift the dumpsters and shake them out,” Grace L. remembers. “So I had a garbage truck-themed party and scoured the internet to find a garbage hauling company that sold miniature garbage cans and trucks for party favors.”

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More often than not, the craziness has us questioning our own sanity.

“For my daughter's 2nd birthday—a monster-themed party—I designed and sewed 12 monster plush dolls, each one different for each kid,” Sunny C. recalls of her painstaking effort. “It took me hours and hours. I have NO idea why I did that.”

I think all of us sometimes wonder why we do the things we do—stay up all night, spend an entire paycheck, run ourselves ragged—for a five-hour celebration for an unappreciative crowd. But I’m guessing most parents would say we enjoyed every second of it and would do it again in a heartbeat. And the answer to the question, "Why did I do it?" is obvious: it’s what we did for love.

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