Birthdays and babies

I just did a bit of math, and here’s what I figured out.


So far in my children’s lifetimes, I’ve planned some thirty-five of their birthday celebrations. At least. I’m not counting celebrations for family or at school or daycare where, even though you don’t have to do much planning, you still get to schlep cakes and paper plates and plastic utensils all over town, but still. Let’s milk this for all it’s worth, shall we?

Thirty-five birthday parties is equivalent to more than one hundred hours of my life a) chasing down a house full of screaming kids jacked up on sugar, b) scrubbing mud and cake and puke off floors and walls, and c) wanting to stab my ears out. Good times.


Twelve of these festivities were in the Netherlands. Kids parties there are much like the ones here, filled with presents and loud singing and too much cake, all of which in no way make up for the lack of alcohol.


How many minutes it took me into Evan’s first birthday party to figure out that paying someone to entertain the kids is worth every single penny. It was a freezing cold April in Holland, and thirty snotty-nosed  hooligans were bouncing off our walls. By then the cake had already been eaten, the presents torn open, and the games played, and the Dutchman and I still had another three hours and fifty-five minutes to go.


The bottle of wine we chugged after everyone left.

DSC00767Fast forward to now.

Now, the Swaaks live in a land where when it comes to kids’ birthdays, the sky’s the limit. Limousines and private concerts, sleepovers in a suite at the Ritz, catered skyboxes at the Georgia Dome – nothing is too extreme, or too expensive. With the couture birthday parties all around us, it’s easy to go over the top and convince yourself that a real, live circus in the backyard is a perfectly normal way to mark a child’s birthday.

Except that it’s not.

Isabella’s fifteenth birthday party next weekend will be a big celebration, but it will not be Super Sweet. No surprise celebrity appearances or private shopping soirées or glamour-girl makeovers. No grand entrances on exotic animals or ridiculously overpriced gift bags. This year, we’re going back to basics ~ to a bunch of kids tearing up my house and jumping in my pool and playing Ke$ha way too loud.

Because the Swaaks live in reality. Not on reality tv.

But there WILL be cake. And I will eat LOTS of it.


About Kimberly S. Belle

Kimberly Belle grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. A graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and has worked in marketing and fundraising for various nonprofits. She's the author of two novels, THE LAST BREATH and THE ONES WE TRUST (August 2015). She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. Keep up with Kimberly on Facebook (, Twitter (@KimberlySBelle), or via her website at

Posted on September 6, 2013, in Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I feel your pain, Kimberle! We gave up birthday parties years ago. Instead, my kids get to pick something they want to do with a friend–a sporting event, a show, or a trip to the zoo. My daughter will be sixteen this year, but she’s content to spend the day with her horse–thank goodness! It’s a milestone birthday and I want t give it its due, so there will definitely be cake. 🙂

  2. It’s easy to get caught up in the game of impressive birthday parties. We gave up parties at 10 with an option for 13 and 16. I’ve attended some doozies, but my kids know me well enough to know they can’t expect the same in return. They have just as much fun hanging out in a backyard as they do at the Ritz. Hope she enjoys her party!

  3. Fun post, Kimberle! I hope the party goes well.

    I do a small party for my girls every-other year. Each year is just to much to plan and include friends, but we do something special no matter what. It’s worth celebrating!

  4. I never thought about how many birthday parties I have planned for my two kids. If they’re 19 and 14, well, that makes for 33 parties! Yikes! That’s a lot of hours and money and gifts and what all! We’ve always tried to do the old-fashioned type of parties, no Sweet Sixteen soirees, as you noted – too expensive and definitely not up our alley. We threw a surprise party a year ago for my son’s 18th birthday and he WAS surprised. It was fun. I enjoy putting them on and watching the kids have fun and will have to go through my dvd’s to watch them some day.

  5. We do family birthday parties, nothing too elaborate, just everyone we love getting together for the special occasion. I’m with you on skipping going over the top. 🙂

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