How can a child’s birthday party not be a disaster?

I attended my granddaughter’s third birthday party yesterday, with some trepidation. I like her very much, but I’m an experienced parent, and I know how these things usually go. Take an excited child, give her lots of attention, stuff her with sweet rich treats, and spoil her with presents, and you just know there’s going to be at least one tantrum and that the event will end in frustrated tears.

This party had more than its share of concerns.

One, a terrible awful grandpa. I’m still dealing with pain and mobility issues from tendinitis, which I’m dealing with with medication that keeps me going through the day, but unfortunately, as it wears off, I crash hard. I was afraid that, come the evening, I was going to turn into a saggy, cranky tired old man. More than usual, anyway.

Two, this turned into a big party, the largest my daughter has held at her house — both sets of grandparents! Cousins! Friends! — all focusing their attention and cheer on one little girl. Overstimulation city, man.

Three, Iliana had helped make her birthday dessert. She chose to get chocolate donuts, which she drenched with chocolate frosting, and topped with chocolate ice cream. I feared those little heaps of sugary intensity.

Fourth, every one of her adult visitors brought one or more presents. They piled up on one wall, and it was going to be an impressive haul.

I predicted doom. All the ingredients were there.

And then everything was fine! I don’t know how, exactly.

Skatje solved the cranky grandpa problem by working all afternoon to make a fabulous vegetarian meal for the adults, a delicious Italian vegetable soup and lasagna. Grandpa turned into a mellow, satisfied old man with a warm glow in his tummy.

Iliana pigged out on chocolate donuts and ice cream by literally sticking her snout in it and licking it all up, happily. She ate as much as she wanted, which was not excessive, and then stopped and skipped off to play. She opened her presents with enthusiasm and was excited about all of them, and solved all the concerns about spoiled little monsters having tantrum by just being darned cheerful about everything. Her mom and grandpa helped assemble her new dollhouse, we played a quiet game for a while (the bunny family and the alpaca family were moving in, but the alpacas were frightened and hiding because the rabbits were such good pouncers). Then she toddled off to bed where her mom read a book to her and she fell asleep.

Thus was I deprived of a dramatic story. My predictions were all falsified. All I can assume is that Skatje and Kyle are better parents than I was, and managed to produce a well-adjusted happy child.


  1. davidc1 says

    Can’t get the image of a three year old up to her ears in chocolate donuts out of my mind .
    We want ,nay demand photos.

  2. PaulBC says

    We did one large birthday party for my son when he turned 5 (over a decade a go). I did a lot of planning for it, and I think it turned out well, but the real problem was simply the pile of presents. It was just way beyond what we ever get for our kids. I guess it represents a normal amount of “stuff” but it isn’t our style. I don’t think my kids were deprived in any sense. They had toys and games, but not in that quantity.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    Being someone who always expects the worst, this smooth dinner would have freaked me out, watching for a relative of that meteor that nearly hit a woman in Canada.
    From age 3, children sometimes manage to hang on to memories despite their quickly growing brains. She might recall the curiously stationary bearded guy fifty years from now.

  4. Artor says

    My friend faced that conundrum when his daughter had her 14th birthday, and he didn’t want to deal with a bunch of sugar-crazed teens, so he put his skills as a professional pastry chef to work, and somehow crammed 10 lbs of chocolate into a 5lb cake. Each of the kids had their slice, and it was so rich they immediately went into food narcolepsy. Instead of bouncing off the walls, they settled down to watch videos, and a couple of them fell asleep. Then a friend (not me) ate 5 slices herself and crashed.

  5. wzrd1 says

    We’ve resolved to the wisdom of Dad.
    Parties at our place, then when appropriate, “I’m tired, take your parents and go home”. ;)
    A few hours, it’s just the cleanup, which all participate in. :)

  6. robro says

    I know what you feared is the common expectation, but I don’t think my son ever had a meltdown at a birthday party…and we had quite a few, elaborate affairs in special locations with many quests, lots of presents, and plenty of sugary stimulates. My son had plenty of meltdowns in other venues during his childhood…e.g. school and summer camp…so he was certainly capable of losing it,
    but birthdays and other holidays went fairly smoothly.

  7. BACONSQAUDgaming says

    My twins had their 14th birthday party on the weekend. In true Canadian fashion, a black bear decided to crash the party just as their friends were arriving. It added some excitement, although I was a bit annoyed at its indifference to my attempts to get it to leave (eg. playing loud obnoxious music, telling it to leave, throwing small objects at it). It literally just stuck its tongue out at me as if saying “This is what I think of your pathetic attempts!”. Mind you, if it was tame I would have considered keeping it as a pet. It looked very cuddly from the other side of the patio door.