In my mind, planning a birthday party lies under the frustration column.
The end result—seeing a happy child make a wish and blow out his candles—is rewarding.
But first you have to put in the work, which is what I learned when my son Carter turned 4 years old two weeks ago.
When I was a child, my parents put a sincere effort into making each birthday a momentous occasion. I look back on past celebrations and remember them with a happy heart. My mother always hosted a party at our home with a few friends, fun crafts, games and, of course, a homemade cake.
Having such wonderful childhood memories of my birthday has always driven me to make sure that my child equally enjoys his special day.
His first birthday was celebrated with a small group of family and friends in our backyard with a barbeque.
His second birthday was a larger affair. We were weeks from moving to California. I decided to combine a party with a farewell event for our Canadian friends. We enjoyed a pizza party in our basement with a Thomas the Train cake and a few gifts.
Along came his third birthday. By this point, Carter knew the day was fast approaching.
We'd attended parties at Pump It Up, Bounce U, Chuck E. Cheese's, Party Playhouse, Lemos Farm, Safari Run, Sweet Connections and, honestly, probably a few other venues I don't remember. Carter had some pretty grand ideas after those experiences.
We thought about having his party somewhere other than at home—no cleaning, no food preparation. But we ended up just going back to our original plan and had a party at home.
We splurged a bit and rented an inflatable jumper. The children had a wonderful time. I think the parents did too.
Now I had the chore of planning birthday party No. 4. This year my precocious child really knew how he wanted to spend his big day.
After another year of attending parties, his ideas were even grander. He spent several weeks before his birthday inviting everyone he knew to his fourth birthday party at Pump It Up.
Little did he know, his party was not going to be at Pump It Up. We planned to continue our annual tradition of a party at home with a few close friends, and that's what we did.
Which raises the question: How have parties changed since the days when we were young?
The expectations of simple celebrations have sky-rocketed.
I do want my child to have the best. I want him to look back on his birthdays and all special occasions and think that his parents did the very best for him.
That being said, I find it very hard to draw the fine line between a lovely childhood memory and spoiling him.
So looking ahead to next year, I'm already prepared to simplify. I want Carter to grow up and be happy and successful. I want him to remember that his parents loved him and tried to make the best choices they could for him.
In the end, the grand birthday party is just another day—a simple memory in the passing days of childhood.
Victoria Lau, a member of the San Bruno Mothers Club, is the author of the blog Everyday Me. Her column appears on Tuesdays.