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The Zoo Keeper

Good Enough Is Good Enough

Layla Watkins

(4/1) I swore I'd never be one of those moms. You know the type - the one who, when it comes to her children, insists that everything be absolutely "perfect." Their clothes must be perfectly coordinated, their rooms decorated in a perfect balance between childhood themes and timeless décor, the playroom perfectly arranged and perfectly organized, meals with perfect nutritional values - perfect, perfect, perfect. Ridiculous, isn't it? But even as I recognize how ridiculous it is, I must acknowledge that I, despite my good intentions, have indeed become one of those moms. It's just that "perfect" now has a slightly different definition than it did before I had kids.

Perfectly coordinated outfits in our house consist of tops and bottoms that when put together, do not make you cringe and turn away. And these perfect outfits don't come from high-end stores. Well, not unless someone else bought them first so we could later buy them at our favorite consignment shop. Sure, occasionally my kids are dressed to the nines, but most of the time they are simply clean and clothed. And their rooms? One is painted purplish-pink, the other blue. Decorated in a hodge-podge of flowers and cars, they are cute, comfortable, and functional kids' rooms but there is nothing amazing about either of them. Our playroom is more of a toy staging and storage area than it is an actual room, but there is "a place for everything and everything in its place." I do try very hard to prepare well balanced, nutritional meals but even there, a "perfect meal week" is one in which we only had one night of frozen pizza, nuggets, or hot dogs.

While I have had to redefine perfection in certain areas, I am still very much a perfectionist at heart. So when the opportunity for perfection - that is, perfection as I used to know it - presents itself, I jump at the chance to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Case in point: one five-year-old birthday party.

The older I get, the less I am concerned about celebrating my birthday - I know I'm not alone in that. But for my kids, nothing is a bigger deal than their birthdays. Christmas is a close second, but even Christmas fails to bring the same excitement. After all, Christmas is what it is - they don't get to choose a theme for Christmas, Santa Claus knows if they've been naughty or nice and may adjust their presents accordingly, and balloons beat mistletoe any day. Actually, we haven't even had Kara's 5th birthday party yet and she's already talking about what she wants for her 6th, 7th, 8th…22nd! No, I'm not kidding - in case you are wondering, she has already informed me that her 22nd birthday party is going to be a polka-dot theme. But wait, one birthday at a time. Her 5th birthday party is on the horizon and after all, it's a big one - "The Big 0-5!" So I better make sure it's a good one. No, I better make sure it's a perfect one. Alas, my inner perfectionist is as giddy about throwing the party as my daughter is about having it. Let the party planning begin….

Before I was a mom, I shook my head in wonder at people starting to plan their kids' birthday parties weeks ahead of time. I thought, "It's a birthday party - cake, presents, Pin the Tail on the Donkey. What's the big deal?" Boy, did I have a lot to learn. The first thing I learned was that, if you are trying to please your child and your inner perfectionist, you do not start planning a birthday party weeks ahead of time - you start months ahead. So what's the big deal? Everything.

First off, we have to decide on a theme which, granted, for a five-year-old girl is pretty easy - Princess or Barbie? We opt for Princess but then have to narrow it down. Are we having a Princess, Fairy Princess, Disney Princess, or Princess Tea party? And our color palette? Pink and purple only or are other dignified pastel shades allowed? Of course the tableware (solid color plates, patterned napkins) must compliment all the other decorations.

Oh yes, decorations! Balloons are a must, but will they be helium-filled balloon bouquets or will I make another one of my famous balloon arches? There will be no "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" at Princess Kara's party, but maybe we could "Pin the Tail on the Prince's White Horse"…or not. Of course we need more than one game and we need prizes - we must have good (read: perfect) prizes. We need a craft or two (or three) for the kids to do. Hmmm…stick on jewels, foam stickers, glitter glue - Yes! Now, what do we put them on? Maybe something they can take home as a party favor...

Favors - I almost forgot! We need them too and more than just the craft. There should be a sweet treat of course, a small toy or game, maybe some jewelry? And of course we need favor bags to keep all their loot together. Should I buy some or decorate my own? Decorate my own, definitely, but should I stencil some designs or use stamps? Or maybe I'll just put some stickers on them - after all, I don't need to go overboard…. Umm, too late!

By the time this paper goes to print, Kara's birthday party will have come and gone. I will do my best to make sure she has a wonderful, memorable birthday. Will it be perfect? Probably not (though I can hope!), but as long as Kara is happy with her party, that is good enough for me. And honestly, if there is cake, Kara will be happy.

Oh! Cake! Should I get chocolate cake with cream filling or white cake with chocolate filling? I wonder if they have fruit fillings. Maybe raspberry….

Read other article by Layla Watkins