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The Comeback Kid: Celebrating the Return of Birthday Parties


My poor five year old, with her spring birthday, has now had two COVID-style celebrations. However, this year we made the festivities incrementally bigger. Instead of a family-only celebration and the half-hearted drive-by party of 2020 when she turned four (which we piggybacked off an older church friend who has her same birthday), this year we invited one (1) friend to come play. Basically we hosted a playdate party like her 3rd birthday, but much, much smaller. In the year of COVID, a playdate became her heart’s desire, and it was so sweet to be able to fulfill that request that used to be so minor and has come to feel so risky.

This year, when her age became a whole hand, we rented a bouncy house for the backyard to make things feel more special and a little different than just a playdate, although having a friend at our house was a novelty in itself. Now that we know COVID is less likely to spread via surfaces or when staying outside, I felt comfortable hosting a friend. The girls also have been together in in-person preschool since August, and my husband and I were already halfway through our vaccine doses, so those made it feel even less risky. I was glad our friend’s mom agreed!

Once we decided how we would celebrate, little sister and I brainstormed our party lunch menu, cake and ice cream options, and other ideas for things to play with this best school friend whom she loves so much. With simple sandwiches, a strawberry box cake, small cups of swirled vanilla and chocolate ice cream, and lots of Shopkins, arts, crafts and drawing, the party turned out to be our most successful and least stressful so far. She and her friend had the best time together, bouncing and laughing, and all I had to do was hang out with them in the yard and make sure they had enough to eat and drink. The time flew by in a flash, and our friend was here for four hours, basically twice as long as we’d have a normal party with lots of guests. While I still don’t know if I’m completely following the best etiquette guides for playdates, the low-key celebration felt good and was a lot of fun.

Marking her fifth birthday, which feels like another momentous age, actually spread across a few days. I accidentally made my Facebook friends wish her a happy birthday twice: first I posted a picture of her with the beautiful pink cake we made for her playdate party, then again by posting a cute picture on her actual birthday, which was a Wednesday. Her dad’s birthday is a few days before hers, so we had a solid week of cake at our house. No complaints here!

It seems like we’re not the only family tired of not celebrating with friends. Although the birthday party invitations have dried up for the most part, they’re starting to trickle in again. We’re slowly getting invited to celebrate with other friends. In the before times, with two girls in school, we would go to at least one party a month and sometimes more. It felt like we were playing birthday bingo–how many different places can a kid have a party in Baton Rouge? (The answer seems infinite!) Our first foray into accepting an invitation in this weird in-between time will be at a new-to-us venue this weekend, another square on the bingo card checked off!

How has your family been celebrating birthdays over the last year? Are cake and presents at home enough? Do you feel comfortable getting back into the kid party circuit?

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26 Apr 2021


By Mari Walker

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