Birthdays Are My Weakness

Philly is loaded with places to throw an over-the-top birthday party for your five-year-old. So we did. (And $500 later, I sort of wish we didn't.)

We had our first-ever birthday party for Blair the other day. Her first real birthday party. At a place. That we paid for. With lots and lots and lots of money.

For the past five years, I’ve been feeling like a turd in a punchbowl, while Blair opened invitation after invitation, year after year, for the capital-B-Birthday Parties my friends were throwing for their kids. The first birthday at Gymboree! The second at Little Gym! Three at The Discovery Museum! Four in the Oval Office for a marbled quarter-sheet with Barack and Joe! [SIGNUP]

The most exciting thing I’d done? Invited kids to the house to decorate party hats with pipe cleaners. At least I made lunch. (The rainbow Jell-O mold took almost a whole day, but I couldn’t have looked at myself in the mirror if I’d skimped my little Blair out of having both a purple layer and a violet layer.) All along, I told Thad: “Five is a special year. We’ll make five special. We’ll blow it up at five.”

And blow it up we did.

The plan: Fourteen girls. Two hours. A place called Enchanted Dreams — Blair had never been there or even heard about it or even knew such a place existed outside of Orlando — where kids get to dress up in princess costumes, and not those crappy, flammable, dollar-store ones, but satin and silk flower-girl-level gowns with bows and lace and ribbon and sparkles that likely cost more than my wedding dress. Three staff — THREE! — would run the entire party, singing songs, teaching the hula, making a personalized necklace for Blair with beads that all of her friends “made wishes” on.

In the end, it would cost $500. But it would be epic.

When I sent out the evite, my friends wrote back, excitedly:

“Which princess are you getting?” I immediately felt turdlike again. Not only had their daughters been to parties at Enchanted Dreams before, but they’d been to parties where the parents opted to hire someone to dress as a Disney Princess for the low, low additional cost of $119.

“We’re not having a princess,” I said.

“Oh,” they said.

Turd mom. Mom turd. Turdy turdy turdy.

But, then, the day arrived. And Blair walked through the front door of Enchanted Dreams, past the huge sign, surrounded by balloons, that read, “Happy Birthday Blair!” And she put on a pink flowered dress with pink butterfly wings and a pink jeweled tiara. And her friends came and got dressed in ribbons and satin. I tried to help Blair into another dress, but one of the women on the staff said, “No no! You don’t have to do anything! Sit down! Relax!” Just before I walked to the back of the room where the other moms were snacking on cheese doodles, Blair whispered to me: “This is the coolest.”

I thought it was the coolest, too. For about a half hour. Then, as I watched my mother tiptoe around with the video camera, capturing “Blair’s Fifth Birthday Party” across the room, it suddenly seemed to be happening 100 miles away. Blair was over there, doing her thing. We were over here, not a part of it. That’s where our lives were heading. It was inevitable, I knew. It would happen soon. In five years. In three. In two. Sitting on the white lacquered chair, eating a piece of princess cake that I didn’t even cut, I thought to myself, Not yet.

“What was your favorite part?” I asked Blair as we drove home in the minivan.

“The cake!” she said.

“I mean, what was your favorite part of the party,” I asked.

“The presents!”

“What about the party part? The dress-up? The songs?”

“I wish it would have been funner,” she said.

Next year, I thought to myself, it will be. Cake. Presents. Pipe cleaners. The works.

VICKI GLEMBOCKI is a Philly Mag contributing writer. She blogs at Blunt Force Mama.