The Birthday Party Mistake

You know you’re a food allergy mom if…

When a birthday party invitation comes in, you go straight into planning mode.  At least this is what my preparations usually include, and did, for a joint birthday party for two friends of my daughter from school.

Find out what cake is being served.

Even with safe ingredients in a potentially offered cake, it just never feels worth the risk (or pressure on the host parent) to eat the cake there, so I like to find out what kind of cake is being served so my kids can get a similarly decorated/flavored/themed version.  For Sunday’s party, that was rainbow cake so we broke out the rainbow sprinkles for decorating.

Advance coordination with the host parent(s).

I am truly lucky that when we’re invited to a party, parents go above and beyond to include E in the festivities.  This time, it meant getting contacted by the family and being asked what candy would be safe for a piñata so that they could have options for E and R to enjoy.  How awesome is that?  And just the other week, a friend offered to bake a cake in my kitchen so that my kids could enjoy the results.

Birthday presents & wrapping.

Okay, this is something everyone does for party prep, but my son and daughter love choosing gifts for their friends.  We talk about what they might enjoy, we plan within a budget, and they help me in the whole wrapping process.  I was even tweeting a picture of the great drawing E did on her present for one of her school chum’s gifts.

Cupcake in Crayon on Kraft Paper
Cupcake in Crayon on Kraft Paper

Feed the kids before the party.

This is a major safeguard – fed children are less cranky and even armed with snacks or similar food to the party food if it isn’t going to be safe for them, if they’ve already eaten they are more amenable to hearing “no” if there is something they can’t have.  I was feeling pretty much like super mom Sunday as I watched R gleefully eat salad with his lunch (I’ve never seen a child enjoy lettuce the way he does) and E eat her mashed potatoes and corn.

Off we go….

Decorated cupcakes and gifts in hand, fed and happy children, and out the door in time for the party (per google maps and google calendar, that is). . .check!  Or, so I thought.  We arrived to a pristine and empty play structure at the park.  My first thought was that I got the address wrong, so I pulled up the invitation on my phone (I scan them in when they arrive) and my heart sank.  The address was correct but the time most certainly was not.  You see, my phone has this glitch sometimes where I put a time in and it adjusts it for eastern time, then I correct the setting to pacific but instead of adjusting the time back again, it leaves it alone.  Which is how 11am became 2pm on my calendar and the party had wrapped up at 1:30pm.

So why blog about one of the more mortifying parental mistakes I’ve made?  About as mortifying as wearing skirts around a toddler that likes to play peekaboo with strangers from behind said skirt?  Well, we were able to turn the day around and I was able to find a lesson for myself in the whole thing.

Sometimes it is refreshing to make “regular” mistakes.

I had never really reviewed all my steps in birthday party preparedness until yesterday.  When I did, I realized that showing up to the right place at the right time needs to be on the list,  I had to further realize that I need to back off a bit on the food allergy front, stop being so crazy busy with work and what have you that I rely on my digital calendar as much as I do, and get the basics right first.

The best part?

When I messaged one of the moms to apologize for being a no-show (I am not the sort to no-show!), she was incredibly gracious and was okay with us dropping our gift off at their nearby home.  My kids were most disappointed that their friends might think they forgot about them that they shook off the whole missing the park aspect and railed against my calendar instead of me.  Which was pretty nice of them, I’ll admit, though I take full responsibility for my distraction (and late night calendaring).

Not only did we get to drop the gift off, we were invited in for an impromptu playdate – they simply understood that these things happen and wanted to make sure the kids got to have some fun.  We called the other mom (it was a joint birthday party because the boys had birthdays close to one another) and offered to drop off our gift.  She was having friends over that hadn’t been able to make the morning party and invited us in as well.  My kids were over the moon to discover that the grandmother of E’s classmate had even saved some of the safe candy from earlier in the day.


This post is my thank you to M and K, the moms of K and L, for being such great sports and turning my birthday party mistake around.  I swear I am not one for inviting myself to people’s homes (at the last minute, on a Sunday) but they were both so awesome and chill about the whole thing.  It really does take a village.

And a more punctual mama.

10 thoughts on “The Birthday Party Mistake

  1. Oh my. I can so relate to this whole experience you had!!! Sounds like you did the best you could! I like your “bake the cake in my kitchen ” idea !
    With all the details we have to juggle it is tough! We try our best and then we keep trying accepting that we meant well , although we could REALLY use a personal assistant to follow us around sometimes to handle little details (like when the party is actually. )I like to pretend I have an imaginary personal assistant who seems to never be around when I need her most. She might have to be replaced soon, but I’m not sure I can afford anyone else, you know ? 😉


  2. While I completely empathize with the issue of getting the time wrong, I am in awe of the extensive preparation you go through prior to the party. We had our own version of the Birthday Party Disaster this past weekend. My son is in 2nd grade, and has been with most of these kids for three years now (some even longer than that, as we have friends we went to PRESCHOOL with!), so his food allergies are well-known and understood. Even so, this weekend was the first time R ever got into a tizzy over not being able to eat exactly what everyone else was eating, even though the parents had made special arrangements to accommodate his allergies with other treats (we are allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts & tree nuts). It was also the first time I felt completely helpless because I could not make it better in the moment. I love your idea of making cupcakes at home and taking them with for cake time. I never would have thought of that, and now I wish I had. Even though we have been dealing with this for almost 8 years, I find I am learning new things every day. Thanks, again, for giving voice to issues we face daily and providing a forum for our community!


    1. I remember the first time the kids were upset they couldn’t have exactly what everyone else was having. It was hard because like you said, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. My approach has been to say to my daughter that she has every right to be upset and I wish it could be different. I thank her for telling me that she is sad because I always want to know even if I am sad for her, too. Our rule is that I will try to make something similar or find something similar but even then in the heat of a moment it is no fun to be the odd one out. Have you read the No Biggie Bunch books? They might be a bit young for your son but I really like the discussions the books model. Making cupcakes in advance sometimes is a deterrent for me when it comes to accepting invites (who needs all those extra cupcakes in the house, right?) but it has gotten to just be part of the routine. I already can laugh about what happened, which is good. Thank you so much for sharing, I am glad I’m not alone!

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      1. I had not heard of the No Biggie Bunch, but the books are on their way! And I used to option to send copies both to us and our school library. Just out of curiosity, what recipe/mix do you use when you make cupcakes? We have an “old-fashioned” recipe that freezes pretty well. No cupcakes “hanging around”!


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