relaxing birthday parties do exist

September 28, 2010 |  Category:   friends life nyc

I know because I’ve seen them with mine own eyes. It’s the start of birthday season and so far we’ve been to 2 lovely, relaxing (no, really) outdoor parties the last 2 weekends, the first of which was held at Bryant Park and thrown by my friend Unha for her son’s 5th.

I feel like someone should have given me an informational pamphlet in the hospital when I gave birth explaining the complexities of children’s birthday parties. It’s not something you really think about when you become a parent, but there are A LOT of party going, planning, and gift giving and it’s sort of never ending. Now don’t roll your eyes at me. In NYC, it *is* actually complicated only because of the pure fact that most people can’t just throw big parties in their small NYC apartments. And if you have winter birthdays like both of my kids? You’re out of luck. I’m not the type of mom who relishes in party planning and gets her craft on with favors and decorations and all the party trimmings, so yeah…sometimes I find the whole thing rather stressful. We’ve managed over the years to have a few families over for low-key parties, but Claudine’s already talking about her upcoming 4th birthday, and how am I supposed to top *this* carousel party in Bryant Park? Damn.

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  • siri September 28, 2010 at 3:51 am

    Really now. That looks like the sweetest 5th birthday ever. We have a winter baby too, so what does a parent to? There are only so many sledding and skating parties you can have for a kid born in February. Go bowling, maybe? You’d think that kids born in the summer would have it really good since the sun’s out and it’s ice cream and popsicle season. But everyone’s on vacation when you have your party and you end up with only 1 friend who can come. And sometimes it’s the friend you kind of don’t like…

    Great photo of Claudine on the carousel, by the way.

  • ChantaleP September 28, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Wow, the circus at the park! Looks like a great time. I’m with you on the kids birthday party thing. My daughter’s birthday is the beginning of the xmas party season and I’ve been having to bump up the date earlier and earlier.. This party looks magical..

  • Caddy September 28, 2010 at 8:28 am

    I always love you posts on children’s birthdays because I love looking at the treats, favors and general inventiveness of the themes. 🙂 Its my birthday soon and while I was leaning towards a mature wine and cheese type thing, this post makes me want to revert to a children’s birthday part but full of twentysomethings :))

  • Luann September 28, 2010 at 8:53 am

    I find the whole birthday party thing really stressful. I have one coming up for my daughter who’s turning 5 in a couple of weeks and then one a month later for my daughter who is turning 7. It’s hard to draw a line at who to invite. If you go for a big party, I find the amount of presents overwhelming but if you limit the numbers, then somebody feels left out. I love baking cakes but then they’d rather have some princess one from the grocery store. Next year I think I’ll book some swim time and buy a cake and be done with the whole thing – of course that’s what I said this year…

  • Bridgett | Perideau Designs September 28, 2010 at 9:24 am

    That really looks like a fun birthday party! I wish I had the willpower to hold back. As my husband says “I’m over the top.” Oh well.

  • linda September 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

    paint the town! im sure your kids will have a ball. and it’s indoors. =D

  • Nicole : Three By Sea September 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Lovely pictures, Jenna. Jack’s birthday is Jan. 3rd, it’ll always fall over Xmas vacation here. Quite frankly I dread Jack getting old enough to really be aware of his birthday party (he turns 3 in Jan.). Right now it’s just family and I like it that way. Often times it seems like these birthday parties become a ‘keep up with the Joneses’ situation, where all the bells and whistles and coordinated party favors are more for impressing the adults than the kids. It’s stress I just don’t need, thanks.

  • Catherine September 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Love the pictures. I don’t have any children yet, but I think it really depends on the parents planning and attitude toward the party that translates into the little party guests enjoyment and state of mind. I don’t know, I could be totally wrong. Love the idea of parties in such beautiful parks!

  • J September 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    When we had kids, we said we would throw bday parties when they turned one, 5, 10 and you get the idea. On other bdays we do outtings or something they’ve never done. So for both my kids, we had big #1 bdays and recently, one for my daughter who turned 5. My son is turning 3 next week and we’re planning a trip to the zoo since he has a thing for animals and it’s where he wants to go. We did the same thing for him last year and just brought a cake and sang happy birthday to him in the cafeteria, with party hats and all. Just us and his grandparents and he loved it!

  • Darcy September 28, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Hi, I just discovered your blog through Rummey Bears and, wow, what a beautiful space. I’m so glad that someone has finally complained about the birthday party obsession (we live in DC and it’s just as bad here). I feel like an awful mother but I dread planning them. One of my daughter’s has an October birthday and then my other daughter has a November birthday, so it’s just exhausting. And silly. Most parties have gift bags that are so amazing that my kids want to leave after five minutes just so they can open the gift bag. Ugh.

  • wendy September 28, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    i’m just entering this world of birthday parties with oscar turning 1 soon, and have already started feeling the stress of who to invite and the various preparations. your post is making me think about how to keep it simple.

  • Jane September 28, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    A friend of mine is a hobby baker, and she was hired to make a castle cake for a girl’s fifth birthday. When she arrived to deliver the cake, she couldn’t believe the party this child was having – the mother had rented an entire ballroom! There were performers dressed as princesses, a bouncy castle, face painting, tons of people – and it was so overwhelming the little girl ended up crying! When I was little, having my birthday at the local public pool was just the greatest birthday party ever!

  • j September 28, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    fyi, good post over at simple mom. i especially enjoyed reading the comments. interesting views and opinions on the whole bday thing.

  • Emma September 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Good lord, whatever happened to having a few friends over for birthday cake and fairy bread (circa around 20 years ago) 😉

    The party in the pictures looks lovely, down to earth and fun.

  • Lauren September 29, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I’m a January baby, and we always had mine at an outdoor ice skating rink. A carousel is definitely trumped by outdoor ice skating!

  • Sora September 29, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Being Korean-American, the big stress has always centered around the 1st birthday. For our second daughter, we are trying to downplay the pageantry and have it in a rec room at a local park with close family, friends and neighbors. Lets hope it works out. I can’t help but get caught up in all the pressure to throw what inevitably ends up looking like a wedding reception. In fact, we just attended one at a grand hotel ballroom in K-town (Los Angeles) last weekend.

  • molly September 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Why, oh why, did Anne LaMott not cover this in Operating Instructions?

  • dave bockman October 7, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Most of the children look rather unhappy, in fact all but one look quite sad. :o(

  • Jenna October 7, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    David, hmm…I can see where you might think that from the photos, but I assure you the kids were happy!

  • comments on posts October 7, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    With all due respect, children’s birthdays are not supposed to be “relaxing”. The children are supposed to have unrestrained fun and the parents are supposed to go home with ringing in their ears from the squeals of joy! Perhaps the parents are managing their own stress but inadvertently creating stress for their children. These photos have lovely composition but please share some of the less artful ones that depict the children smiling and having a wonderful time! No manuals are given out with children but one way to guage if you are doing a good job is if they smile alot!

  • Jenna October 7, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    anonymous: children’s parties can be whatever they end up being, whether joyful, hectic, crazy, relaxing. Relaxing does not mean that we are managing our own stress. It doesn’t mean we are creating stress for our children. Relaxing, in this instance, meant that we had a great time, children and adults. What you see here is only a slice of the party, it’s not indicative of what happened in real life. You know this, yes? I assure you, there were plenty of smiles, joy, laughter, cake eating. It was a GREAT party.

  • Truly Smitten October 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    oh wow…this IS a great party! I’d choose this any day! And your girls are so adorable =)

  • Jen Laceda October 11, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Hi, I just found your blog and I love it! I have 2 girls also, but yours are so pretty (and well-dressed)! We are boring people and my daughter’s 3rd party was held in an indoor playground. How do you top this??!

  • Dale - Kids Birthday Party Entertainer October 23, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Most parties can be relaxing if you have the right entertainment and the right people.