Lakay and I definitely cannot afford a Disney-esque entertainment for our little one's birthday party, but I wasn't bothered by that from the start. That's because I've discovered a long time ago that it doesn't take much for the little one to be really happy.
So yesterday, we threw a party for him. On the menu was: tuna pasta puttanesca (for the biggies) and fried chicken wings; shanghai lumpia, donated by a friend and sweet spaghetti (for kids) cooked by the same friend; some appetizers and cupcakes for dessert.
This rather simple menu was overcompensated for by guests who were so game to the crazy ideas of the little one's parents.
First, we huddled them together in the function room of our building, and told them to be quiet until the little one would open the door with his mom. Once opened, everyone should shout "Surprise!!!" and sing "Happy birthday..." Of course, this sounds so simple, if we were talking to kids. But we were actually instructing PhD students from their late 30's to 60's. Gladly, these guys were just so into it too.
his bashful smile after being surprised right at the door
After the light snack came the opening of presents. One by one, Each "kiddie" adult had to sit on the floor with the little one while he opened the present they gave him. Each had his or her turn of being either the object of ridicule or of praise depending on the little one's reaction to the present he got.
But everyone was praised and hugged well. It's because I knew that it wasn't so much about what he got, but more about the idea of opening presents. This is why instead of buying him one expensive gift, Lakay and I bought him many small delights that we can wrap separately.
So there you have it. Four hours of fun with a budget-friendly menu, and with the priceless contributions of people who knew from the start that throwing birthday parties for kids is first of all about the happiness of the celebrant himself.
I feel glad that I learned this principle early, while I'm a still a young parent. Perhaps, even when the day comes that we can actually afford a Disney party for my little boy, I would still rather do something like what I did yesterday. Besides, all it takes to have my boy smiling from ear to ear is a careful knowledge of what really makes him happy. And that entails lot of love and hands-on care.