My nephew recently celebrated his fourth birthday, and when I asked about his favorite part of his birthday party, he immediately said, "the cake."
My sister spent hundreds of dollars having his birthday party at a facility where he and 15 kids from his preschool class got to make a craft to take home. Despite the elaborate costs, the Ninja Turtle birthday cake excited him most.
Most parents I know feel pressure to host a fabulous birthday party for their kids, and I used to feel the same way when my son was younger. I agonized over the guest list, where to have it, and what type of food to serve.
To make things more stressful, his preschool had a policy that invitations had to be distributed to everyone in class. I understand that this is done so feelings don't get hurt, but honestly, I didn't want to invite all the kids in his class. Besides school friends, there were neighbors, soccer teammates and other friends to consider.
My house wasn't big enough to host dozens of extra kids and their parents, and I didn't want to clean up afterward. If I wanted to have the party somewhere else, then I had to worry about a size limit and the cost involved.
A lot of my friends find themselves in a similar situation when it comes to birthday parties. The guest list gets too big, and then the party planning gets out of hand due to size and cost. Before you know it, a celebration that should be fun turns into a stressful situation for parents.
One friend told me she is thankful her daughter has a summer birthday just so she's not obligated to invite all of her classmates. Another friend pointed out that each year her daughter's expectation for a party gets bigger and bigger.
Over the years, I've learned to skip the party and go straight to the cake. With April and May lurking on the calendar, we are approaching birthday season in our house.
Every time we drive by a local park on the weekend, my kids go crazy over the bounce houses and balloons they see. The truth is that we won't be having a birthday party for either of them. Since my daughter was born almost four years ago, we have celebrated their birthdays at the same time, and we do so as a family.
Since we don't have any extended family living nearby, it's just the four of us. I'd much rather take that birthday party money and put it toward a day at the ballpark, or use our annual Disney passes and spend the day at EPCOT.
Our kids still get presents from us, our families and close friends, but there aren't any balloons or bounce houses.
My kids may not have a party, but they still have fun celebrating their birthdays, and of course, they are always excited about the birthday cake.
Danielle Hauser is a married mother of two who lives in the Westchase area.