The Five Stages of Child Birthday Party Prep

Princesses, pirates, superheros and fairies. Hepped up on sugar and excitement and bouncing around like a mob of hyperactive kangaroos. No, it’s not a Liberal fundraiser;  it’s the standard child birthday party; every parent’s dream and nightmare all at once. You want so desperately to create magical memories for your little cherub, while at the same time feeling a tad sick to your stomach wondering how to pull off a party for a group of little monkeys without resorting to drinking wine out of a brown paper bag. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I endorse wine coming out of anything, truly.

With every party comes a series of stages that we go through, as we plan and prep to within an inch of our lives, the much anticipated celebration of our darling’s birth. Just like the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of loss and grief, so too do we have five stages of children’s birthday party prepping. IT IS REAL, YO.

It is an emotional journey, not often occurring in a straightforward manner. We can lurch from one emotion, backwards to another, get stuck on one and then shoot through to other emotions. While there may be a range of emotions involved, typically the following emotions can be exhibited at any given time.

child birthday party meme

  1. Excitement

This is the initial stage of the party prepping. It is this phase that lulls parents in to a false sense of security. Feeling the need to squeeze the joy out of their cherub, throwing a party to celebrate the day they escaped from the womb is a must. The excitement phase brings with it so much hope, so much anticipation and the potential lifelong adulation of the offspring. No pressure. The aim here is to have the darlings so god damned #blessed in turn the parental heart will burst with joy at the sheer love and excitement they will have for this amazing party.

Wine and Pinterest, was there ever a better combination? I think not.


  1. Bravado

In this stage, an inflated sense of ability becomes apparent. With Pinterest searching comes bravado. Wine may or may not also be playing a role in said bravado. The individual at this emotional stage can feel invincible. Nothing is impossible.  It is here where parents often feel perhaps this is their life calling, and party planning is a gift they’ve been bestowed.

Common ideas at this stage can include DIY lolly buffets, handmade piñata that sings happy birthday while getting beaten, 3D cake creations with lollies hidden in the middle of 7 layers of vanilla caramel mudcake goodness. Smugness is rife. Fondant is easy to get smooth, right?

This particular phase often times features severe annoyance at miniature creatures that approach when parents are in the thick of Pinteresting, sprouting ridiculous lines like ‘blah blah… I’m starving’ ‘blah blah… I don’t want those stale rice crackers Mummy’. Ungrateful bastards.

child birthday party ecard
  1. Apprehension & Paranoia

This phase is a double whammy. Having come off the bravado, reality then sets in. Holy.shitballs. What have I done? WHAT HAVE I DONE?????? is often the thought process accompanying this emotional stage. Realising how much work is actually involved in a party, and the ridiculously small timeframe that the individual has given themselves.

Once the wheels are in motion, the additional realisation that there’s no stopping now crashes over the individual like a huge wave. This is it. Can’t cancel, can’t postpone, can’t change details. Invites are out in the universe. Shit. INVITES ARE OUT AND NO ONE HAS RESPONDED. The fact the invites were sent out 10 minutes ago is irrelevant. Paranoia attacks even the most party-hardy parent. What happens if it’s a flop? What if there’s no guests? What if it rains? What will become of the kids’ facepaint? What if the facepainter cancels? What if the piñata doesn’t break? WHAT ABOUT THE PINATA?? This phase clearly requires a lot of caps lock. It is an intense period.

  1. Panic

This stage tends to occur on the eve of the party. Or maybe a week before for the party overachievers. So much to do. So little time. It is at this moment the urge to throw in the towel and just ferry the birthday child away to the nearest indoor playcentre to celebrate their birthday becomes strong. Parents in this phase are willing to put up with the smell of vomit (it always smell like vomit in those places. Even if there is no vomit) and the potential for the birthday child to come out of the ball pit smelling of other kid’s shit just so the party doesn’t have to be finalised. NEVER.AGAIN. The panic is so thick even wine is unappealing. Shit has gotten real. MAKE IT STOP.

  1. Relief

After having lurched back and forth through the previous stages, at last the parent reaches a level of relief. Despite previous panic, somehow this shit all comes together and a party is pulled off. Sure, the piñata might have only had 3 fantails and a used plastic whistle inside, but by and large the party came together. The kids didn’t give a shit about the fondant, and the lolly buffet was attacked by little grubby fingers and sly licks of the musk sticks, but it is DONE. Parents then enter a period of post-party high, whereby they high five themselves and bask in their own glory. This was fun! Let’s do it again!…Maybe? The relief stage appears to also have a magical amnesic property whereby parents forget all previous party prep pain, and thus the stages cycle through.

child birthday party ronald mcdonald Nothing creepy at all to see here…. Image source

Having just come out the other side of this, I can vouch that you get through it. It might take some wine, tears and a break-up with Pinterest though. Prognosis is good if the latter can be achieved. Sadly though, every 12-24 months it seems to reappear. The party amnesia is about as effective as birth pain amnesia. Shit.


How do you go with kid’s party preps? Are you a smooth operator, or are you all over the five stages?

  • Hehe! Great post!

    I love organising kids parties, but I think I still go through these 5 stages!

  • Oh my goodness! YES YES YES!! I outsourced the last child’s party as I knew I just couldn’t do it, for my recent 40th though I gave it a crack realising that the only person who would be disappointed would be me :) Good to see you back xx

  • Hugzilla

    BAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHA!! This is why I go really low key so there is no room for failure. My one anxiety is about no one turning up! I can’t imagine anything worse.

  • I liked giving parties for our kids in the 1970s and 80s..but that was waaaaay before pinterest, lolly stations and all that. Most significant things we did was pin the tail on the donkey, eating donuts from string hanging on the clothesline, pass the parcel. The standout was always the cake chosen from the Australian Womens Weekly book and reproduced by me or my mum. Parents mostly didnt stay. Limited time to 1 hour- 2 hours. I feel that there is far too much competition today…thanks social media! Denyse #teamIBOT

  • Never EVER let your child discover Pinterest for themselves. There’s no turning back when they discover what things can actually be done. I also steer my tornadoes away from the Women’s Weekly birthday cake book for fear they will choose the most difficult cake to make (that’s what I did to my poor Mum every year). Miss T had her craft and pool party last month with 18 kids. I survived. Thank god for summertime and pools to tire them out. All the parents appreciated the beverages I served on the sidelines :)

  • I love party prep! Love it! I’m not the most organised but I give it a freaking crack! 😉

  • Ha ha love this and yes Pinterest has a lot to answer to. I have the wine and bravado Pinterest moments but also have to give the girls a reality check about the WW cakes they choose, and explain that “yes Mummy, of course, is perfect in every way but that particular cake is way to hard for her!!!!!” I do love a kids party though!