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Tales from the Crib: Big birthday parties equal big stress

I was that mom who sent out hard copy invitations six weeks in advance and followed up with RSVP cards. Man, I must have been annoying.
Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager. [Courtesy of Lynn Cristina]
Published Sep. 11

I love planning birthday parties, and I will be the first one to admit I lack self-control. I grew up planning my own birthday parties and graduation parties. Later in life, I became a professional event planner. It is part of who I am and difficult to just shut down.

Each year I promise my husband I will tone it down, invite fewer people and stay on budget. But I fail.

My friends like to tell me I am a bit over the top, but not in a Kardashian kind of way — just when it comes to the fine details. I like themes, which leads to custom invitations, cake toppers, matching candles, lots of decor, party favors and entertainment. Next thing you know, the logistical details have spiraled out of control.

Until recently, I would plan these parties a few months out. I was that super organized mom who sent out hard copy invitations six weeks in advance and followed up with RSVP cards.

Yes. I. Did.

Man, I must have been annoying. My husband would gently remind me this isn’t a black-tie gala for 1200 adults — it is a preschool pool party. Settle down, sister.

One year I had custom invites made for Ella’s 4th birthday. There were lanyards with her picture that served as the “VIP ticket” to the party. I sent them out weeks ahead of time and to my surprise all her friends wore their “Ella necklace” to class every day which was a real distraction. Her teacher loved me.

That same party turned into an event for 75 people. I am of the more the merrier mindset; sure, bring your husband and the other kids, too. Birthday parties in many ways have become the new parents night out. It is a chance for us socialize, meet new people and squeeze in some sangria with a sprinkle of adult conversation.

The party resembled a scene from the movie Animal House and the patio and playroom were destroyed. At the time, I didn’t care because I made it into the bouncy house with the other moms to have a little fun of my own. However, the aftermath left me asking the question: why am I like this?

Well, I am adopted, and I was an only child for twelve years. For most of my formative years it was just me, my mom and my dad. To say I was spoiled would be an understatement, and my birthday was always a big deal. As an only child, I was lonely even though I had lots of friends. I was always planning parties, playdates and get togethers to be surrounded by people. I didn’t have a full house, so I created one.

My husband on the other hand has a large, loud and charismatic Italian family. They never rented out venues for birthday parties because his family was the party. His celebrations consisted of several aunts, uncles and cousins enjoying a signature strawberry cake and partying in the living room until the break of dawn. It wasn’t fancy, but it was fun and full of love.

My passion for events might be hereditary. When Ella was two, I remember asking, “Baby, what is your favorite holiday?“ Her response: “My birthday.” The last few years she has gotten into the details and will quiz me on the music, the cake and the party favors. Rest assured little one, Mommy’s got this. I still love to throw a good party but to be honest I’m slowing down. I’m tired and big parties equal big stress.

Now I have two little girls and a lot more on my plate, so I haven’t been bringing my A-game.

In a few days Adriana turns 4, and this will be my first small party. She begged me for a mermaid-themed pool party, but we are scaling it way back. This time we will skip the bounce house and princesses. On Adriana’s special day, we will focus on her and celebrate another year of survival in the parenting jungle.

Lynn Cristina is a mother of two who works full time as a marketing manager. Contact her at lcristina@tampabay.com or on Instagram @lynncristinablogs.

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