My mom has the most tender heart towards those with great needs. The bigger the need, the more my mom cares. With this comes the inability to exclude anyone.
She tends to stay away from groups and clubs that exclude certain people. Unless we’re talking about her beloved Costco (but she would be happy to take anyone who asks!).
Which is why, as a child, if I wanted to have a birthday party, I had to invite every single person in my grade. Not in my class. In my GRADE. I went to a public school, so I would guess this to be about 60 people.
When most moms would rent out a party room at the skating rink, my mom would rent out the ENTIRE rink to accommodate all of my friends (and people who weren’t my friends, if I am being honest).
Lest you think she’s indulgent and extravagant, she only buys clothes on sale from JCPenney and lives in the same house she and my dad built in their early 30s. We all spend money differently, and she chooses to spend hers on people and things that last.
Which is where Dorothy* comes in. (*name changed to protect the unknowing subject of this story)
Dorothy was a sweet, special needs girl in my class at school. I actually do not recall the specifics of her needs, but she was severe enough to be excluded by my classmates and me yet not enough to be unaware.
Her invitation to my 8th birthday party was solely because my mom made me.
A birthday invitation that was her first EVER.
Most moms would be proud of their attempt to include every child and not think of it another moment. I wasn’t raised by most moms.
Knowing Dorothy’s home life (but not explaining it to me), my mom knew she would have no way to get to my party. Doing what my mom does, she picked Dorothy up on the way to my party.
Dorothy was ready and waiting on her front porch for us and jumped into our car faster than my mom could stop.
In my entire life, I’ve never seen anyone more excited about anything than Dorothy was about my party. (I still cannot tell this story without sobbing.)
At age 8, I could not comprehend the magnitude of my mom’s action.
At age 33, Dorothy’s face is something I have never forgotten.
This birthday party took place years before I was able to piece it all together (her special needs, her living situation, and my mom’s actions). My mom never bragged about her deed. She didn’t make a scene about it. There was no life lesson lecture before we picked her up about how to treat a girl like Dorothy.
On that day, it was just a birthday girl picking up a classmate for a party.
So ordinary. Yet so extraordinary.
There is not one detail of the birthday party I remember, except the car ride with Dorothy. She was bouncing around the car; so happy and so thankful.
I cannot remember the venue of the party. I cannot remember the gifts I received. I cannot remember the food we ate. I cannot remember the decorations or the cake.
And I cannot forget Dorothy.
I did not know it at the time, of course, but over the years, I have come to realize my mom gave me the greatest gift imaginable for my 8th birthday.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I have never been so thankful for my mom’s example. I am raising my kids in the era of the Pinterest-perfect birthday parties, and I don’t feel the need to bow down to the pressure.
Because I have experienced first hand what truly matters.
As always, I must include a disclaimer: there are moms who almost effortlessly throw a Pinterest-worthy birthday party. They are truly doing it because it is who they are, and they’re using their gifts to love their children well. It is not to show off. It is not to impress their friends. It is just who they are. If that is you, keep doing you!
But if that is not you and you’re feeling the pressure of Pinterest-perfection, may I offer a breath of fresh air??
Your kids will not remember most of what you do.
Which, to be honest, is sort of disappointing.
I spend my days doing so much for my kids, and most of it will never be remembered.
This is both frustrating and freeing.
I have to wonder if all of the decorations and attention to detail at kids’ birthday parties is more to impress the parents than loving the kids. Maybe so. Maybe not.
All I know is that I love my kids more than I could ever explain, yet I throw the most underwhelming birthday parties (if I throw one at all).
I invite some friends, get a store-bought cake and some juice boxes from Costco (my mom would be proud), and call it a day.
If there is anything beyond that, it is because my kids ask.
This past weekend, Caleb celebrated his 9th birthday, with a party he mostly planned himself. It was an “EPIC Nerf Gun Battle”. Besides the aforementioned cake and juice boxes, he wanted Nerf bullets, safety glasses (such a first born), and bandanas. That served as elements of battle and party favors.
When I asked him how fun the party was, on a scale from 1 to 10, he said, “TWO HUNDRED!!” And I totally agreed. It was super fun and stress-free.
The invitations were online (thank you, Evite). There was not a single decoration. The cake was store-bought, and I forgot to buy candles (CVS was close by, whew!). There was not a cute chalkboard sticker anywhere.
I actually did buy streamers and forgot to use them.
And yet, my son was beyond happy. As were all of his friends.
My kids may never experience a story like Dorothy’s for their birthday, but I can assure you that if my mom cared more about the party looking perfect, making cupcakes from scratch, and blowing people away with intricate details, there would have been no time to pick up Dorothy.
No time to bring incredible joy to a little girl who was too often overlooked.
And no time to teach her own daughter what love is and what love does.
Food for thought on this Monday that feels very Monday.