I finished grad school a month before my youngest’s eighth birthday, so I had extra time (and guilt) on my hands. I was finally going to mother the way I had intended way back when I was pregnant—by doing everything with loving hands at home. This was going to make up for all the hours I’d done homework and only played half-heartedly with my children.
I would emerge the Ultimate Queen of Birthday Mayhem. I would teach my children that making things really could be better than buying them. Creativity would reign supreme in my household.
It took me three solid weeks to prep for the party. You might think this is an excessive amount of time to prep for a second grader’s birthday party, but I had spent years holding a textbook in one hand and a Thomas the Tank Engine in the other.That’s a lot of guilt to make up for.
First were the Star Wars invitations. I talked my SigO into helping me create a scrolling e-vite that mimicked the beginning sequence of the movies. I even purchased a Star Wars font to make it more accurate.
I bought downloads and sticky paper to turn white paper cups into R2D2s, and yes, I did buy the actual R2D2 chip bowl. I bought 4 colors of napkins which I rolled up to look like light sabers, using another printable I found online. We made funny signs that said things like, “Yoda Soda” and “Wash your Hans.”
Of course we made tie-fighter balloons out of black balloons and construction paper. What Star Wars party is complete without Tie-fighter balloons?
I made every child their own Padawan robe. I printed and cut out Star Wars ID badges and crafts to occupy the children.
I rounded up pool noodles—a bit of a trick in March. I bought duct tape in shiny metallic colors so everyone could make their own light sabers.
We spent several days creating a Death Star piñata using a punching balloon as a base. “We” meaning me, of course, because the kids found papier mache goopy and kind of gross. The final outcome was sort of egg shaped and unrecognizable but it was loving hands at home.
I adhered glow in the dark stars to everything and bought a black light. I strung neon twine to make a laser-beam obstacle course. I actually cleaned my storage room and hung black plastic table cloths from the ceiling to hide the shelves. I set up a nerf gun target game complete with a city skyline out of spray-painted cardboard boxes.
This was going to be the best birthday ever. Turns out, one should never even think those words.
First, the birthday day boy got the flu and the party had to be delayed a week. Luckily, all the guests could still come the following week except for my SigO, who was out of town.
This might be a good time to mention that my son was a quiet kid who didn’t like chaos. We invited the other quiet kids from the class and a few older brothers for my eldest to hang out with. I pictured everyone coloring nicely while wearing their little Padawan robes. I told SigO I would be fine without him and I actually believed it.
The robes were a hit, as was the black-lit nerf gun target range. But most beloved of all were the make-your-own light sabers.
Apparently, hitting a Death Star piñata was a lot of fun. So was hitting all the tie-fighter balloons. And the other party guests. No one wanted to color anything–they only wanted to whack each other and all the decorations with pool noodles. Within 15 minutes the room was in shreds. I found my son hiding out with his brother and the older kids behind the furnace.
Luckily, two other moms volunteered to hang out during the party and help out. The thought of what might have happened if they had believed my cheery “I’m fine!” and dropped their kids and ran is too terrifying to contemplate. They kept it from going all Lord of the Flies a lá pool noodle-light saber. One of them had the brilliant idea of sending all the boys into the yard to play on the swing set until their parents came—even though it was only like 37 degrees outside.
I had forgotten the number one rule of kid birthdays: never arm a horde of sugared up eight year olds with weapons.
It took eons to clean up afterwards. In fact, I still have the sign on the bathroom door, two years later.
I thought we had still executed a decent birthday party in spite of the tiny Jedis intent on destruction. At least I thought so until the next birthday rolled around.
“I don’t want another party,” my son said. “They destroyed everything.”
What my child needed wasn’t the perfect Pinterest party. I got caught up in throwing the ultimate party, because that made me feel special as a mother.What my kid needed was a dialed-down version with fewer guests. He needed me to say, “that’s not a great idea” instead of saying, “I can do that.”
He needed me to remember that eight-year-olds behave like eight-year-olds, especially when they outnumber the grownups.
That next year we did have a party, but not at home. Instead we went to the ice rink, where there was a dedicated party attendant and referees with whistles.
Need help feeding your toddler?
Sign up for our newsletter to get a handy stick-it-your-fridge list of our favorite meals for toddlers and a link to all of the recipes!