Confessions of an obsessive party planner
The party's over. So Birthday Express, Shindigz, and Oriental Trading, please direct your catalogues elsewhere, as in the Merkl home, there will be no more goodie bags or piñatas to fill.
My daughter Meg's recent Sweet Sixteen has ended my almost two decade run as my children's birthday party planner and that gust of wind you feel is actually me exhaling. Nothing wiped me out more than those two bashes per year for Meg and her older brother, Luke.
I have always taken my mothering as seriously as I did any 9-to-5 I ever had; treating every aspect with the same due diligence I gave career-making projects. And just as at work where I fretted over vendors meeting deadlines, I often found myself swigging Mylanta out of the bottle worrying about whether clowns or balloons would show up on time.
My first party was 17 years ago when Luke turned two. The theme was Sesame Street and there was nary an item that did not scream Elmo. I don't know whether it was the glee on his face when all the kids clapped as he blew out the candles, or the compliments I received from the adults about how nice a time was had by all, but I was hooked. Each year was another opportunity to top myself.
Delizia 92 hosted Luke's Hot Wheels-themed pizza extravaganza. The entertainment was a comedian/magician we had seen at a Lord & Taylor's Breakfast with Santa. (I was always scouting for new talent.)
For Meg, there was a "Snow White" event at the Vinegar Factory featuring magician Arnie Kolodner, who was upstaged by the cake, which doubled as the hoop skirt of a dark haired Barbie dressed from the waist up as the Disney Princess. A few years later, Meg had a makeover/"red carpet" fashion show celebration at a now defunct children's hair salon on York Avenue.
Once you're on the party circuit, you go to many more than you throw. My children went for their friends, the cake, and entertainment. I accompanied them for research.
When I think about the money and time I spent, plus the stress I expended, I often feel deflated. "What was I thinking?" has been known to cross my mind.
I wanted to pull my hair out when, as we looked through some family photos, Luke did not recollect his Sesame Street shindig nor the Tonka truck-themed one the following year. We all had been to so many bowling spectaculars at Chelsea Piers, as well as Bowlmor and Frames, that it's hard to recall if "that funny incident" happened at one of our festivities or someone else's.
I also can't say that I ever had a good time at one of our affairs because I was always anxious throughout, hoping things would go well, then mentally and physically exhausted at the end.
For my swan song fete though, I decided to try something new: keep calm and party on. That decision (one I now wish I had made long ago) translated into plans--from finding Meg's dress to the venue, favors, photographer and DJ--falling into place quite nicely.
That having been said, I still believe that just shy of 20 years of children's parties is enough and that I've earned my welcome sigh of relief that Meg's milestone day be my last hurrah.
"That is," said my husband, Neil, "until her wedding."
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is a New York writer and author of the novel, "Back To Work She Goes."