Mama Madison: Milestone birthdays

When no ordinary party will do

In many ways, the most important skill necessary for motherhood is the ability to execute a good plan. I plan summer activities, lunchbox surprises (not all are good), and carpool schedules. I used to plan play dates, although I think my kids would prefer to call it "hanging out" with a friend now. I have plans for the past (finally downloading last summer's photos off my phone) as well as for the future (college savings).

But this week my planning skills are firmly rooted in the present, as this weekend is my daughter's 10th birthday party. And she does not take planning this "major milestone" event lightly. It's her first double-digit birthday she has reminded me multiple times. This one has to be good.

For some reason, planning my sons' parties was never been much of a big deal. They were both huge laser tag fans. Most years we honored the days they were born by letting them shoot at their friends at Ultrazone. A couple pizzas and a store-bought sheet cake later, they were happily ready to take on their successive age.

But my daughter has never made it easy on me. She wants all her parties at home. Charming and quaint, I know. And a lot harder than it sounds.

We've gone the dress-as-your-favorite-animal route with cupcakes decorated like cats. Pin-the-tail-on-the-doggie and zoo-themed charades definitely worked in those early elementary school years. One year we attempted a classic (she was going for classy) tea party. Unfortunately her brother and his friends made it feel much more like the Boston Tea Party though when they came barreling through the door acting like junkies in search of a sugar fix during cake cutting.

A couple years back she wanted to try a slumber party, and I, in a moment of weakness, said yes. My daughter has now learned the hard way there are two kinds of sleepover participants in the world. She is in the minority type -- those who intend (and actually need) to sleep. Unfortunately, most of her friends fall into the overwhelming (and not-so-silent) majority -- those who come with the declared intention of staying up giggling all night.

After the sleepover disaster of 2009, a variation we affectionately refer to as a "sleep under" was tried. My daughter's buddies once again came to the party armed with sleeping bags and slippers. But after the games were played, the presents were opened and the movie was watched, parents were instructed to pick up their pajama-clad girls no later than 9:30 p.m. The party was a huge success: I'm thinking of claiming the concept as intellectual property.

This Saturday night though, no one will be wearing nightwear. We are going for a "10" theme instead to mark this transition to her next decade. She has invited ten guests and will be playing a trivia game that has involves ten questions. We are still searching for a good movie to watch that has "ten" in the title. And it can't involve Bo Derek in a swimsuit or Charlton Heston ascending Mount Sinai. We will even supply ten options for toppings at the "make your own sundae" bar my daughter has requested in lieu of a cake. I'm not yet sure where we'll be putting the ten candles.

But one thing's for sure; I will have very few plans for Sunday when it is over. Except, of course, to rest. Because I'm sure come Monday she'll already be making plans for her eleventh.

And I'll be planning right along with her.

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