You may not think I understand, but I do.

My kids are 13 and 11 now, but a long time ago they were little and we planned elaborate parties with brightly colored frosted confections and party hats and very long guest lists. These things happened so long ago I had almost forgotten them, but recently I found something I had written on my daughter’s fourth birthday. I didn’t have a blog then, and with two- and four-year-olds I rarely found time to write anything. I think I really wanted to remember this one.

July 24, 2002 6:45 pm I prepare to go to the store.
Bronwyn appears and starts to beg. “I want to go with you to the store!”
“I have to pick up some things for your party,” I explain.
“But I want to help!” she pleads.
“No, I need to get some surprises. Stay here with Dada,” I reply.
Her two-year-old brother catches the whining bug. “Me! Me! Me!” he screams, pointing at the car.
I get into the car and wave good-bye to two crying, hysterical children.

7:30 pm
I’m back home with birthday gifts and party provisions. Kids are at the neighbor’s with their dad so I can empty the car. While getting the items into the office, the birthday girl runs back into the house. I just about get things hidden before she is there, bouncing excitedly.

“Let me see! Let me see!” she yells.
I gently shoo her out of the office, explaining that she’ll have to wait. She starts crying. “I want to see my birthday presents!” she wails.

7:45 – 8:00 pm
I wrap presents in my office while my child pounds on the locked door. And sobs.
“What did you get me?” she asks repeatedly. “What are you wrapping in there?”

8:00 – 8:45
I abandon the wrapping and lock the office so I can help with the bedtime routine. Non-stop birthday talk continues: “I want to see my presents” becomes accusations: “You didn’t get me anything.” Then, impatience: “I want my birthday to be today.” And attempts at reverse psychology: “I don’t want a birthday.” Rounded off with denial: “It’s not really my birthday.” And absolute falsehood: “I don’t want a cake.”

Exhaustion follows. And the kids are pretty tired, too. They eat some snacks, brush their teeth, go to bed.

I don’t have a clear memory of the actual day, but we have some pictures and there were smiles, so it appears that it all worked out.

Not every birthday was like this, of course. And of course I don’t mean to imply that your children are anywhere near as neurotic and obnoxious as mine. But when I’m talking with someone about party favors and they ask, “How hard are they to assemble?” and I say, “Oh, I’ll assemble them for you before they’re shipped,” and there’s an audible sigh of relief on the other side of the phone, I know what you’re thinking. And now you know what I’m thinking. You know why I GET IT.

(Also? I’m secretly delighted to save you from tying 45 bows on balms while your child wails, “What are you doing in there?” outside the door.)

What’s your favorite party planning memory? Do you enjoy putting together the details of your kids’ parties, or do you recruit friends and family to help?