Bubba celebrated his third birthday last week with a party in our backyard. I imagined setting up lawn chairs, lighting the grill, and relaxing as 20 toddlers splashed in the kiddie pool and shoveled in the sandbox.
Turns out I grossly underestimated the amount of work required for a backyard birthday party. Looking back, it would have been easier to repaint our kitchen than to set-up, host, and clean up for Bubba’s birthday.
Even before the party, I was nervous about the weather. We’ve had a healthy amount of rain this summer, and my modest house isn’t well suited for a rain delay.
Sunshine miraculously returned on the big day. Guests were arriving at 3 p.m., leaving the morning to prepare the grounds. I started by mowing the lawn. Cutting the grass also helped dry the yard, which was so soaked earlier in the week that hundreds of earthworms slithered onto my driveway to avoid drowning.
With the help of a buddy, I swept the dead worms off the driveway, cleaned out the garage, iced the coolers, set out chairs, and inflated the pool. I felt ready for the party. But this was no time to relax. Guests soon began to arrive. I greeted each of them and walked their gifts over to the table.
I scanned the crowd and realized how much my entourage has changed. Almost all of the attendees had children. Some of my single friends opted out. Others I didn’t even bother to invite, thinking they wouldn’t have had much fun eating hot dogs and getting sprayed with squirt guns anyway.
Speaking of food, I spent $180 at the grocery store for chips, drinks, hot dogs, burgers, buns, and all the fixin’s. Then, I got stuck in front of the grill for most of the party. In hindsight, I should have just had the event catered. I maybe saved $50 cooking myself, but I missed out on much of the party.
When I did get a chance to talk to people, the conversation never lasted more than 30 seconds. Then, I’d inevitably have to flip the burgers, walk a wet toddler to the potty, search frantically for serving spoons, or perform some other task that required me to walk away from people before we finished talking.
I did my best to create a dinosaur theme to the party. One of my grand ideas was to bury some large, plastic bones I purchased from a nearby costume shop in the sandbox. The bones were actually props for a caveman costume, but they easily doubled as dino bones.
Bubba never took the time to play paleontologist in the sandbox. He splashed endlessly in the pool, stopping only to eat a slice of his dinosaur cake and open gifts. We had a triceratops piñata, too, but didn’t even bother breaking it.
It started getting dark around 8 p.m., and the last of the guests drove off into the sunset. Bubba was asleep, completely worn out from his party. I took a quick shower before joining him, equally worn out and glad birthdays only come around once a year.
Image credit: Ali Farid
Howard Ludwig is a former business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.