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Recently, my wife and I argued over whether or not to throw our son a birthday party. She wanted a large party with all of his classmates. I wanted something more intimate with just the nuclear family.

This year, our son’s birthday fell at an opportune time. It was Spider-Man week in New York City, Free Comic Book Day, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Asian American Heritage Festival. I felt it would have been enough to spend the days up to and after his birthday attending one of the events going on around the city. I felt it would have been more “intimate.” It was time to bond with him. And it was more than just one day.

My wife felt that it was important to have a more traditional celebration with a party, cake, and candles. This was his first year at school. He had attended his classmates’ celebrations and had been asking for his own party. She also felt that this was a very important birthday for him. This birthday marked a benchmark in his life. We last had a big party for him when he was three. We hired a storyteller and rented the backroom of a cafe.

Recently, I read an article on Babble called “Birthdays Gone Wild.” The author wrote about how much time, planning, and money she had spent on her son’s birthday parties. Once, she even rented a lion cub from a local zoo! She wrote about how frustrated she was that her son seemed to have no memory of the great birthday parties she had thrown for him. He only remembered running around and playing with his friends. She realized that the parties she had thrown for him were more for herself than for him. The parties helped relieve the guilt she felt over being a working mom. Needless to say, with each year the parties became more and more extravagant until she came to the realization that the size and expense of the parties did not matter to her son, who only wanted to play with his friends.

This year our son got a party with all of his friends and we celebrated throughout the week with a special activity here and there. It worked out well for everyone involved. I spent the day with him and our youngest. My wife had a party waiting for him when we got home. We don’t have the resources to rent a baby lion but “Birthdays Gone Wild” was a poignant cautionary tale for all future birthdays.

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