It wasn’t that we forgot our son’s eighth birthday in early June. Not at all! We celebrated it in style, during our Ontario vacation, by spending the afternoon playing video games and arcade games at Chuck E. Cheese’s. It was clearly one of the best days of his young life.
Before we’d left on our trip, we had his traditional “family party,” where grandparents and aunts and uncles come to our place for dinner and cake. He had new Lego sets coming out of his ears and had them all assembled by noon the next day, which is his idea of heaven.
But, well, technically … we skipped the part of his birthday where we throw a little party for him and his friends. We came home from Ontario and just … no one mentioned it. June melted into July and July melted into August and I seemed to be the only one who was quietly remembering.
I felt guilty, but enough to go through the effort of pulling together a party — especially during the summer when it’s hard to keep track of who’s on vacation and who’s at their cottage and who’s in day camp. Why, oh why, hadn’t I gotten organized back in June?!
Do you know what it took to kick my butt into gear? A birthday invitation from his best friend, who’s birthday is one of the very last days of August. Suddenly, the guilt was so powerful that I decided I had to do something immediately.
I texted a few friends to confirm their kids would be available in three days — a random Wednesday afternoon — and asked if I could take them to Levels Game Loft for a few hours of nonstop video gaming. No invitations, no real notice and almost zero effort required.
Levels Game Loft is an amazing place here in Truro, with screens everywhere and cool rainbow lighting and those rocking video game chairs. The kids were bouncing with joy as they waited to start their two hours.
I didn’t rent the party room. I just paid for the kids to be able to play for two hours on the PCs, Wiis, WiiUs, Playstation 4 Pros, and Xbox One Ss, bouncing between whichever consoles they wanted. They all had a blast, with some of them switching games every 15 or 20 minutes and others sticking with the same one (good ol’ Minecraft) for almost the whole time.
We ate popcorn as we played. I got especially sweaty during an enthusiastic Wii Boxing match with one guest. Three of the kids fell in love with the dark room filled with PCs — complete with light-up rainbow keyboards and fancy headsets — and declared they were never playing anything else. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of these adorable little eight-year-olds looking like itsy bitsy baby hackers.
At the end of the two hours, everybody’s parents came to pick them up and I handed out cake pops. They had melted all over my kitchen while I made them and my freezer is still a mess of chocolate blobs — thanks, extreme heat and humidity — but they were edible-ish.
I never do loot bags because I hate them, but I’d picked up some $2 clearance water balloon kits at Michaels the night before, so everyone got to take one of those home.
The entire party cost less than $100 and I felt a huge sense of relief that I’d finally done it. Sure, it took two months and two days, but he’d had a “friend party” to celebrate turning eight. Everyone had a great time, and it just reaffirmed what I’ve been slowly learning: kids’ parties don’t have to be a lot of work — or really ANY work.
If you don’t feel like hot-glueing paper decals onto plastic cups or crafting elaborate banners — stuff I used to do for every damn party — you don’t have to do it. You don’t need real invitations or even a Facebook event, if that feels overwhelming. You don’t need a theme or a huge guest list or a single trip to the store to buy party crap.