Last November, Brian turned two. So we gathered our abundant collection of family and a few friends at our house for some cake. This is how I do birthdays: buy a cake and have extended family over. I have friends who throw Pinterest-worthy themed birthday parties with full meals and games and goodie bags. I have cake and family because I just can’t. 

Anyway, I decided to bump it up a notch and get an ice cream cake from the grocery store. It was just frosted with chocolate, so I snagged a tube of frosting, planning to pipe “Happy Birthday, Brian!” on it later. Easy-peasy. That’s how we roll.

I forgot to add the finishing touch to the cake, so when people were here, I just pulled it out of the freezer, clipped the tip of the tube, and started: “H-a-” Oh, crap. this tube requires and actual frosting tip, because it’s nowhere near fine enough to write on a cake.


Fitting enough, I guess.

We were laughing about the frosting job, but excited about the ice cream cake, so we sang, he blew out two candles, and I cut the cake.

It wasn’t ice cream cake.

It was a very cold, hard chocolate sheet cake.


It was delicious. Also, pretty ridiculous.

Yesterday, I realized that Brian’s birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s probably time to figure out when we’re going to have frozen sheet cake and text an invite to the family.

But here’s the truth about me and birthday parties:


I don’t especially like attending them—as a highly sensitive introvert, the noise and the number of people are usually overstimulating. It’s worthwhile. I love the people I’m celebrating and celebrating with, but not the thing I’d choose if given a day to do with as I please. When I am responsible to throw them, it exhausts me from the day I start thinking about it until it’s over and cleaned up and I’ve slept a full night. This hasn’t always been the case: I’ve thrown a good many showers and even pulled off a few weddings, but I just don’t have the margin for it in this season. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the people who are there. I like connecting with individuals. I love celebrating my amazing children.

But I’m gonna take a pass this time. Maybe this whole year and next, too.

Birthday parties are not the only way to connect with people or celebrate these wonderful growing small people that I managed to grow inside my body. When I was growing up, as the first of five kids, I believe we got parties every other year. On the years we didn’t have them, we celebrated as a nuclear family. And it was fine.

I have nothing against big, fancy, gorgeous birthday parties every year for kids. I have friends who do it and love it and it fills them up and functions as a creative outlet. It’s totally a thing, but it’s not my thing. My kids love going to those. They ask me when they can have a party like that. “When that mommy is your mommy, sweetheart. We do different things.”

This year, I’m going to recall that there’s no biblical mandate for a birthday party, fancy or otherwise. I’m actually excited to come up with ways to celebrate and make him feel special now that I’m ditching the “have all the people over” plan.

I’m going to be kind to myself and celebrate my little boy with a whole heart that isn’t distracted by the impending gathering of extended family or resentful of the energy it requires.

(Those of you who ordinarily come celebrate with us: THANK YOU. It’s not you. It’s me. Feel free to text me and drop by to celebrate the dude’s birthday… a few at a time. It’s way more manageable.) 

This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

31days of grace in failure 4-3

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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  1. Ahh yes. The birthday party. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown one for my girls past their second year. We just celebrate as our own little nuclear family and go out to dinner and activity of the child’s choice. I do love getting together with family, but it all just gets to be too much. Especially when 4 out of the 5 of us have birthdays from mid-October through mid-January. Yep. Thrown right into the holiday mix! Good times! I like the mellowness of our b-day celebrations because it also stresses to the kids not to put too much emphasis with all the material things that comes from having a big party. (PS – Happy Brian!)


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