The night before her 6th birthday, I lay awake as mothers sometimes do. I worried that her party wouldn't be as special as she is.
After a quick calculation, my husband and I noted that we probably spent $30 on the entire party. I had fallen prey to the idea that the higher the price of the party, the more fun it would be...and I tossed and turned.
I couldn't have been more wrong about that.
On a Saturday morning in September, we met at a hiking trail at 8:30am. Eleven kids. Two babies. Seven adults. Wearing backpacks and tennis shoes, we set off - the birthday girl leading the way. We scrambled up boulders, ran down paths, and splashed in the water. The kids took off their shoes and headed due north along the creek. The wind rustled the trees. Laughter shot through the silence, a glorious tribute to childhood.
Afterward, we reconvened at our house for brownies and ice cream. For the kids, we lightly frosted the brownies, sprinkled on crushed oreos, and added a colorful gummy worm. We also set out miniature tubs of yogurt, whole bananas, and apples to complement the hiking theme.
For drinks? We served water - which ended up being a smart choice. Nothing like cold water to wash down all that sugar.
Our 6-year-old had created the decorations ahead of time - carefully drawing photos of trees, birds, fish, branches, the party attendees, and the creek where we hiked. We attached them to the counters with tape, displaying her handiwork.
Afterward, at least four kids exclaimed that it was their "best birthday party ever." The birthday girl agreed, smiling from ear to ear. It was a huge success, to say the very least.
I had been worried because there were no matching party plates, no streamers or balloons, no X dollars per child packages, no carnival rides, no party favors in plastic bags. I needn't have been. The party confirmed to my heart what I already knew deep down - children delight in simplicity and in nature. Many of the best things in life really are free.
As an extra bonus, we grown-ups enjoyed the morning right alongside the kids, surrounded by beauty and the unparalleled artwork of the Creator.
One thing is certain: this won't be our last hiking party. Next time, I'll sleep soundly the night before - knowing that our society puts undue pressure on parents to create spectacular kids soirees, when all kids really want is good old-fashioned (free) fun with the people that they love the most.
Describe the best birthday party you've ever attended (for either a child or an adult). What made it special?