Apparently birthdays are important. I heard this somewhere once. Through no fault of their own, your child was born on a specific date and now every year, on this date, birthday celebrations are metered out in varying stages of hyperactivity.

It’s a curse really.

A few years back, a neighbor had a birthday party for her daughter — who turned 6 or something. Maybe it was 9. She rented a pony (among other things) for the kids to have rides on and an unspoken standard was set. A constant pressure to match of trump.

Ferris wheels and fireworks, strange vegan dishes arranged to look like celebrity faces. $400, 3-tiered birthday cakes. Wrapping paper that costs more than any present I ever received growing up.

Seriously people, what the hell? It’s a curse. Really.

Alright, maybe it’s envy on my part. I’m not one of those parents who have regular brilliant ideas, every year upping the ante (though I did one time correct a sagging peony in my front garden with a bent coat hanger).

Most often I’m lucky if I get breakfast dishes cleared from the table before dinner is served. What to do?

When a child’s birthday comes up (and please use your virtual calendars if you’re prone to forgetting), a few options come into play:

  • You can plan a party in your own backyard, neighbor’s yard, or local park.
  • You can hire someone else to plan the party and host it somewhere else.
  • You can feign ignorance and say you’ve never heard of birthdays before.

When my daughter recently turned three, I went for the second option — but three was the most appealing. If I had planned it myself, there would have been 10 unhappy kids sitting around a record player, listening to Bob Dylan croon about social injustice with paper hats on their head.

Me: wasn’t that a great song?

Random Child #8: This cupcake tastes like dirty socks.

So thank goodness for the Semiahmoo Family Place in White Rock. A phone call, a brief discussion of dates and times, and the final –most important– detail: they would do all the work so I could make small talk with other parents.

Birthday cake made by Oma. Dollar and craft stores for goody-bag items. A carefully selected group of family and friends.

Done and done and done.

The result? A flawless afternoon in a well-run facility with excited kids, relaxed parents, and not a pony in sight. Not one. Not even a hamster.

Plus a kid who, for a few hours, felt the sun bore her name as it crossed the sky.

The moral of this story? You don’t have to do it all yourself. Or maybe it’s ponies are lame and they smell funny. Either way, it’s not a competition. Some of us suck at organization. Birthdays can be simple. It’s people that make them great.

Harry Tournemille is curmudgeonly today, but writes regardless of his temperament.

photo courtesy of iStockphoto