Mason’s Second Birthday Party & Not Keeping Up With the Joneses

Mason turned 2 yesterday and we celebrated with a cookout. It was very low-key, especially by New York standards, where pricey entertainment, a giant guest list, and catered food isn’t at all unusual.

We reserved the rooftop of our apartment building, and decorated it with a “mod monkey” theme inspired by Mason’s love of the stuffed monkey Chris adored when he was Bug’s age. In fact, it’s the only toy my quirky kid will allow in his crib at night, and he always makes sure that I cover “Monkey” up when I tuck him in.

I ordered all of the decorations, tableware, and favors online. My father-in-law hung clusters of balloons from the awning over the picnic table, and my mother-in-law put together the cute little centerpiece. I hung balloons and my brother-in-law’s girlfriend dressed things up with streamers.

The food was fresh and local. Chris grilled sliders and brats, while I made fruit salad, heirloom tomato salad, and red cole slaw. We served a bunch of different types of drinks (beer, wine, seltzer, soda, and juice boxes), and had the requisite goldfish crackers. Dessert was chocolate and vanilla cupcakes that I made from a mix decorated with rainbow sprinkles.

I didn’t hire fancy entertainment, I decided Mason was too young to really get a magician or whatever. Instead, the boys played with beach balls, toy cars, and bubbles–most of which came from our local dollar store. Our thinking was that new toys Mason had never played with would be easier for him to share than his beloved playthings (which stayed downstairs in our apartment). Our plan worked! The boys had a blast, and we didn’t have any major meltdowns.

The moms chilled out, eating and chatting (my father-in-law took on kid duty, which was awesome). At one point I looked around and felt so grateful to be surrounded by so many wonderful people who also love Mason. My MIL and FIL had flown in from out of town for the occasion. Then there was my BIL and his girlfriend (who are local); two LIC Mamas, Diane and Kerry, and their families; Katherine with her husband Eric and their darling twin girls, Kay and Brooke; and Aesook with her husband Henry and son Logan, a favorite classmate of Mason’s. Some neighbors whom we adore stopped by as well.

I had stressed endlessly about my simple approach; at one point, in the beginning of our party planning efforts, Chris had to remind me that we didn’t need to go overboard for our 2-year-old’s birthday party, and I’m thankful he was able to keep me focused. I find it embarrassingly easy to get swept up in what other moms think and say, and, I lose perspective on what works for us as a family. In the end, Mason clearly had a blast–and I wouldn’t change a thing about the party we had for him.

Have you found yourself in a situation recently where you’ve felt pressure to “keep up with the Joneses”? Dish with me!

 

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  1. by Casey

    On August 21, 2012 at 10:39 am

    We definately went overboard for our son’s first birthday party, too. Booked a restaurant, went way over the top on food, cake, decorations, guests, etc. When he turned two in April I had already decided we needed to “tone it down” quite a bit. We were actually living in two places at the time, and I knew we would need to have two parties for our separate groups of friends. My son is obsessed with trains, so I took the Thomas The Train party theme and ran with it. I found as many ideas as I could on Pinterest. I made my own invitations and mailed them as postcards(cheaper than mailing envelopes), and hand delivered as many as I could. 100% of the decorations were Pinterest inspired and homemade. My nieces helped me glue for hours, they were so awesome! We opted for mid afternoon parties(For both), so we did not have to serve an entire meal. I made a “train” of fruit & snack food, which was appropriate for all the toddlers in attendance. His first party a friend made an awesome train cake, and his second we just did cupcakes. All together a huge success for both parties! They were pretty low key, and we enjoyed both!

  2. by Kristi Bennett

    On August 21, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I have six kids, I’ve done mostly low key family and one or two friends type of parties because with my history, people call and say they are coming, then don’t and my kids end up being hurt. But I have had successful turnout when the party was at a pizza place or for my oldest daughter’s 8th bday Kim Possible blowout with her GS troop; we even had a DJ…but it was her dad and he owns all the equipment. My youngest daughter’s first birthday was low key and relaxed but we did reserve a shaded pavilion at a local state park and played in the lake – we had a private kitchen and private bathrooms. Her 2nd birthday was even more low key with decorations I made myself and it was a cook out at home (ladybug theme).

  3. by B

    On August 21, 2012 at 11:11 am

    We always do an outdoor BBQ-type party. The kids are free to choose what they will do (swings, games, bouncy house…) and the adults take turns playing with the kids. We have attended a few of these OTT parties and my son ends up bored. Pretentious is only fun if you rent an entire theme park!

  4. by CM

    On August 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I felt a lot of pressure to rent a place or do chuck-e-cheeses for my sons 2nd birthday, I was having to constantly remind myself to keep it simple and save the big party for a more appropriate age. I bought cheap hard hats and caution tape from our local party supply store and let the kids “demolish” my house, served kool aid and dirt cake. Everyone had a great time and it was very inexpensive. Thank you for this article, some people truely need a reality check.

  5. by Audra

    On August 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    On my side of the family we always buy a cake. So for my son’s first birthday it was pirate themed, most of the decoration was from party city. He had a lot of gifts and that was most important to me since he was growing out of baby toys. This year his birthday is on Thanksgiving so I’m actually glad I read this. I’m going to keep it super low key since we’re in a cooler state compared to AZ. I just might let my MIL bake the cake even though I’m used to it being the centerpiece of the party. We had pizza last year so I’ll make sandwiches.

  6. by Thien-Kim

    On August 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    I totally understand not getting sucked into what other parents are doing! Looks like you made the right decisions and everyone had a great time!

  7. by Shannon

    On August 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I totally understand what your saying. We’re planning my sons first birthday and its hard not to get wrapped up in the ” well so and so is doing this, or having that” It doesn’t matter. Its not like my little guy is going to remember. I want him to have fun and it doesn’t take breaking the bank to do that.

  8. by Tammy

    On August 29, 2012 at 11:28 am

    We keep it old school and I don’t invite the Jones’s :)

    Tammy

  9. by Laura @ Stroller Parking Only

    On September 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Good for you for doing it your own way, Mama! A lot of these over-the-top parties for kids are just for the parents to show off and end up being not very kid-friendly. Somewhere along the way, people lost sight of what a KIDS’ party should be. Glad you’re keeping it real. Sounds like a blast! :)

  10. by Sally

    On January 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    I am so glad to read your post. My daughter is 9-months old and I just got invited to a friend’s birthday party for her two-year old daughter. My friend has rented a hall at a country club and invited tons of people. There’s a moonbounce, face painters, balloon artists, catered food, etc. And it’s a costume party (yes, she is suggesting that the adults to dress up too!) It’s nice to know there are still normal people out there who remember that birthday parties are for the kids.