Children's birthday parties are not what they used to be. In the olden days-you know, three or so decades ago-these yearly celebrations were made up of Pin the Tail on the Donkey games and Piñatas; cupcakes baked in ice cream cones; little girls dressed in their best smock dresses; and homemade gift bags filled with google-eyed animal erasers and yo-yos for guests to take home. These days, arrive at a birthday party for a two year old and you are likely to find a real donkey or two, a giant jumping dome, and a clown who's scaring every possibility for a tantrum-free afternoon out of half the attendees.
It's no wonder that preparing to celebrate a birthday for twins or more can render parents a bit nervous. Don't fear. It is certainly possible to provide a fabulous party without borrowing the inhabitants of a barnyard, permanently traumatizing anyone, or breaking the bank.
First and Foremost
The occasion of The First Birthday is viewed as monumental by most. After all, gone is the era of sleepless nights, waking/sleeping/eating scheduling challenges, the introduction of solid food, and possibly weaning off of the formula that's ruined nearly every couch and carpet in your home. While each of these successes provides great cause for celebration, keep in mind that at this age, not only will the babies not remember the festivities, they will likely sleep through them. Therefore, it is my perspective that the first birthday is a fantastic opportunity to throw yourselves-the weary parents-a party (disguised as a first birthday party, of course) to celebrate all that you've survived this past year! This is perhaps your one and only opportunity to make all birthday party choices in the areas of decorations, food, cake flavor and design, and most important, beverages. So, take all the liberties you'd like. Just don't forget to have your camera at the ready so that you can document your children's every moment sleeping, screaming, and otherwise happily celebrating.
Let Them Eat Cake
It's often fun-especially at a first birthday party-to give each child his or her own cake, often called a "smash cake" because that's all a child this age might do with it! Many bakeries will gladly create adorable miniature versions of the larger cake intended to serve the adults and older children. Another option is to bake cupcakes for the kids and present one to each of your birthday babes when it's time to sing "Happy Birthday." A few things of which to be aware:
First, many one year olds do not like sprinkles or any sort of solid decoration atop their dessert. If you've adorned your treats with such décor and this is the case, be prepared for the cake/cupcake to go flying across the room and possibly land on the back of grandma's freshly coiffed hair.
Second, many one year olds determine rather quickly that they like the icing so much that they aren't going to move on to the cake portion-ever. Be prepared by having extra icing ready and outfitting your children with bibs that cover their entire fronts, arms, and hair if you want to avoid having to do complete baths between lifting them out of their highchairs and placing them back on the floor.
Finally, one year olds are notorious for falling asleep at the very moment at which their mothers decide it's time to cut the cake. If documenting the cake portion of the celebration is critical for the scrapbook you'll some day get around to creating, begin the party with the singing and cake cutting. It really is OK not to go in typical birthday party order; after all, nothing else about the last year has been normal, so why start now?
Simple is Better
All mothers of multiples strive hourly to make life as simple as possible; birthday parties need not be an exception. When planning a birthday party for your multiples, keep in mind that having more simultaneous celebrators doesn't necessitate inviting more guests. In fact, for children under four years of age, it's best to keep the number of invites to a minimum so that the party does not become too overwhelming (for you or them!). If you have a large local family, one idea is to host separate celebrations, one for family and one for a few of the kids' friends.
The most common rule of thumb is to invite one guest for each of your child's years. In the case of multiples, it isn't necessary to double or triple that number. If your children are turning three, invite three or four friends. Keep the party short (1 ½ - 2 hours at most), and fill the time with activities such as a craft, a game, a snack or light lunch, cake cutting, and gift opening time. If there are a few minutes left over, letting the kids run around a bit to ensure an inevitable good nap is never a bad idea!
When kids are under the age of five, there is no reason to provide separate birthday parties. Your children likely have many of the same friends and interests at this point. As your children get older (Kindergarten and up), if they do indeed have completely different friends and interests, you may find yourself needing to plan separate parties, but for now, keep it as simple as possible. One way to make their party more personal is to let each child choose her own cake flavor and design. It's doesn't require too much effort to make a ballerina cake for Nina and Bob the Builder cupcakes for George. Additionally, instead of hoping that your children can agree on a central theme for the party, take them to the party store and let each child pick out a package of plates, hats, and a few gift bag contents. This will encourage each child to put his own signature on the event.
Thank You, Thank You
When it's time to write thank you notes, don't stress over whether or not it's required to send a note from each child-especially when the kids aren't old enough to stay awake during their party! When kids begin to understand the concept of thank you notes (around three years of age), you can write one from each child and have them sign their names at the bottom. Or they can dictate their thanks as you write the actual notes. Until then, feel free to simplify your life by writing one combined thank you note from both children.
Birthday celebrations are a milestone in all children's lives. As they get older, they will likely begin requesting more and more detailed festivities based on a combination of their friends' parties and their own interests. Luckily, by that point, they'll be able to help more with the planning-maybe even the cleanup! For now, be in the moment with them as they render their faces green with frosting, provide more than a few classic photo opportunities, and fail to understand the significance of all the hoopla going on around them. Most important, be thankful for the long afternoon nap (or early bedtime) that will likely follow such a celebration.
Elizabeth Lyons is the author of Ready or Not.Here We Come! The REAL Experts' Cannot-Live-Without Guide to the First Year with Twins. Her website is www.elizabethlyons.com.
". . . the advice you need in the short, funny format your sleep-deprived mind can absorb. Lyons tells it like it is in a laugh-out-loud look at the uncertainty, craziness, and absolute joy of your first year with twins. An absolute must-have." --Lisa Earle McLeod, Columnist for Lifetime Magazine and author of Forget Perfect.