There’s something both highly obsessive and therapeutic about packaging up my daughter’s birthday favors and treats every year. For the 9th time, I stayed up late on one of the last days of September long after she and everyone else in the house had gone to bed. Even in the state of the world in the year 2020, with no in-person birthday parties and no pressure to make a class set of 25 (non-edible) treats, the tradition lived on, just in a slightly different way. I still found myself at the annual 11:38 p.m. Friday Night Crafting Party for One.
In my opinion, a 10th birthday during a global pandemic was all the more reason to NOT break tradition. We went with mask-friendly headbands and teeny tiny stuffed animal heads, both items Amazon purchases. I also sprung for pre-packaged international snacks from Cost Plus World Market.
The motherly micromanagement of putting together birthday swag is most definitely why I do this every year. The placement of the little presents on a bed of multi-colored decorative shredded gift wrap paper really makes me happy. Simply folding down the tops of flowery paper bags with a satisfyingly crisp crease and sealing it with a sticker brings special meaning to my life. My daughter has over 5 years of legible handwriting under her belt and although I always intend on having her hand write most of the tags and little messages, I ended up taking over. In her preschool and primary grade years, it was a great opportunity for her to practice fine motor, counting, and 1:1 correspondence skills by letting her fill the bags. Now that she is a decade old, I officially reclaimed that job too, because she had other things to tend to (sleeping?) and I needed the feeling of having control over SOMETHING, especially in these times.
The favor bags held a little more purpose this year, as the birthday celebration itself was obviously super different. We opted to drive around the neighborhood and hand deliver the packages so she could have quick socially distant visits with friends. No big production of a drive thru birthday parade (our street is way too busy for that anyway), and no awkward invitations for anything that resembled a party or gathering.
It was the most low key and controlled birthday celebration we had ever experienced in the history of her 10 birthday parties. We enjoyed it. We had mother daughter time, she had friend time, and there was no post-party mess to clean up or any disappointment of a big celebration being over. She claims that she never wants to have another party again. Sounds a bit extreme, but it will definitely work for now.
You would think that by now I would have realized that birthday goodie bags and handmade party decor aren’t the most important part of the celebration. This year however, they served as one small reason to reconnect with other humans in person, even just for a few minutes since it had been such a long time.
Therefore, the decision is final. I will continue this crafty birthday bag ritual until she’s 50.
■ Elementary Educator for Equity & Cultural Responsibility
■ Collector of Small Moments & Thrifty Finds
■ Wife & Mother
■ Bay Area, CA