A week or so ago we celebrated our second son’s second birthday. And while I’m still reeling from the shock that he’s suddenly not a baby anymore (like when did THAT happen), I’m also reveling in a weekend spent soaking up family, adventure, and collecting moments full of memories… and not things.
It’s no secret that having kids means acquiring a ton of crap. Whether it’s toys, coloring books, playhouses or play kitchens shit seems to multiply into every corner of everything we own including the diaper bag and our cars.
We acquire goodie bags and trinkets from school and dollar bin toys from Target like we’re secret hoarders. Every time my sister-in-law comes over, she brings more toys. And while my boys certainly love all of it, and we certainly appreciate the gesture, over time, all the stuff adds up.
Now if we decide to throw a birthday party we instantly double or triple the amount of crap, I mean toys, which the boys own and sometimes play with. But this may not be a good thing. Studies show that too much clutter in your home can affect your child’s stress level and tendency to experience anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong; birthday parties can be a lot of fun. And getting new things is always awesome for a toddler’s excitement and joy level, but I’ve found that excitement quickly fades within a few weeks and we’re left with the aftermath of all the new stuff laying around everywhere.
This year for Sam’s second birthday, we chose to share an experience, instead of having a party. And here’s why it was epically awesome:
Build Lifelong Memories
On Saturday morning we woke up at the but crack of dawn, got the kids ready, packed up the car, and headed to Santa Barbara. Nearly the entire drive we sang songs played on the Spotify app that Sam loves.
Our destination was the Santa Barbara Zoo. We roamed and made impressions of roars of various animals, and got a very close view of the elephants eating their breakfast! We took the train and listened to a lion roar that was primal and astonishingly loud.
We spent an insane amount of time sliding down a hill with a cardboard box, and the boys were in heaven from all of it. They both got to pick out a souvenir (so, yes, we did acquire two new things).
Then we headed to a local Mexican restaurant that Chris and I have loved since before we were married. We ate and drank and everyone was full and happy.
A quick drive up and down the PCH and I was left with three napping boys. I parked on the Santa Barbara Pier waiting for everyone to wake up.
Next stop was ice cream (because, duh) and a stroll on the pier and then to the beach to hunt for rocks. When everyone was good and done, we shook out the sand, packed the car back up and drove home with the same toddler radio jams. We fed the boys a dinner of peanut butter and jelly, tucked them in, and popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate two years of being parents to two children.
As much as I love hosting and throwing a party, it can also be very stressful and overwhelming. Between the setup, execution, and clean up. Our clean up this year was unpacking the stroller, snacks, and backpacks… and shaking all the sand out of everything that made its way home from the beach.
Also, I didn’t need to write thank you cards; I didn’t need to exchange any gifts that were too big, or too small, or that we already had, I didn’t have to coordinate the return of rental furniture or clear storage space for extra food and beverages.
I know I sound like a hater on parties and stuff and like I'm ungrateful or something. Chris and I love hosting parties, we love and appreciate things, but sometimes we also love NOT being the hosts and sometimes like to have less stuff.
Less Stuff and Less Clutter
Because he only got a few items this year for his birthday (a stool he needed for the bathroom, a book from Grandma, some handmade things from some other friends, etc.), our house is otherwise relatively the same as it was before the party, I mean adventure. And the things they did get, their souvenirs, have been tops of the list of favored toys for a week now (and holding strong)!
In fact, we actually could stand to do a purge of toys and stuff accumulated between the holidays and now to get ready for the rest of the summer.
Spend Less Money...Depending
We didn’t spend the night in Santa Barbara, so we were able to save quite a bit of money, but if you’re planning an event out of town, this may make it a bit more expensive.
Otherwise, it's possible that you will save money if you choose experience over things or instead of throwing a party. A recent poll conducted by Babycenter.com reported that 26% of families spent more than $500 on their child’s birthday party.
For this event, we spent $50 on zoo tickets including extras like the train tickets (we are members of the L.A. Zoo, so we got a discount on the entrance). We spent another $50 on lunch, and $20 on ice cream. A total of $120 to celebrate our little man’s birthday.
And in exchange, we walked away with tons of photos to keep this memory fresh in our mind.