Last week, my son, Aussie, turned 6 years old. Due to me not throwing him a “friend” birthday party last year, I was obligated this year.
And I was stressing out. I am not a partier. I love children and even run my own preschool out of my home. However, birthday parties are not my idea of fun.
First, there is the expectation of the whole party. You have the decorations, party favors and cake to match the invitation you sent out. Try as I may, I always end up spending more money on the actual party than I would have had I just bought him all the presents myself.
Then there’s the wild kids running around hyper off of the sugar high — which I provided. Then, there are the kids who always get their feelings hurt, and I have found it is most often the birthday child you end up consoling. I always feel like the world is spinning around me, and I am constantly watching the clock, wishing the time would go by quicker.
The rest of the day, the birthday child and I are completely worn out and a little grumpy. Needless to say, this is not my idea of fun.
As I was stressing out about the party, putting off to the very last minute sending out invitations, I decided to take my kids for a relaxing hike up our favorite mountain. This particular hike is just shy of one mile, with a great plateau and an even better view at the top. As we neared the end of the hike, Aussie said, “Mom, I want to bring my friends on this hike for my birthday party.”
I had never heard of a birthday party hike. But for some reason, when he said it, all of my anxiety over the upcoming party went away.
I went home, texted a few of his friends’ parents and gave them all the details. They would drop their kids off at my house after lunch, and I would pack a drawstring bag with snacks and a drink and take them for the hike. We would then open presents (which I would carry) and eat our snacks at the top.
The party went better than expected. We took the hike slowly, making sure to take careful note of ant hills, moss, indigenous plants, snake holes and cotton-tailed rabbits. We looked at animal droppings, found some bones and even saw snakes and lizards.
At the top, we took a few pictures, looked down at the valley, opened presents and ate our snack consisting of applesauce, juice, crackers, carrots and a cookie. We all sang “Happy Birthday” at the top of our lungs with our best outside voices.
Oh, and cake … I forgot to mention cake. We didn’t have any. Nobody mentioned a thing about the absence of cake, not even the birthday boy.
On the hike down, the kids were all smiles, talking about how high we went and how much fun it was. There were no tears shed, no sugar highs — only smiles and endorphin-induced giggles.
The best part of all was a satisfied birthday boy who hugged me and told me it was the best birthday party he’d ever had.