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Flashback: Forget Goody Bags. Your Next Birthday Party Needs Race T-Shirts

Posted Sep 04 2013 12:00am
It's time for another flashback post because I am at the crossroads of "best-summer-ever hangover" and "oh-shit-school-has-started shell shock." And, since my twins just turned 10 (which means I have been parenting as long) I thought the Triathlon Birthday Party post would be a nice way to commemorate. It's hard to believe it's been five years since that milestone birthday. What's not hard to believe is that I've not since repeated such a monumental parental feat as that party. Now, looking back, that's when I might have peaked as a parent. You decide. Have you thrown a birthday party you're proud of?

Swim, Bike, Run, Turn 5!
August 25, 2008

I had one of those rare shining moments as a mom on Saturday. One of those days when I knew I hit it out of the park. I was feeling particularly satisfied because I felt like perhaps I was making up for the fact I don't have a "baby book" for any of my babies, and of the eight cumulative birthdays we've had in the last five years I've had only three birthday parties. But one of those parties happened Saturday and it. was. awesome.

The genesis for the triathlon birthday party began when the twins expressed interest in doing a triathlon. They've been to a few kid's races and watched both parents race. They conduct their own races in the cul d sac, including a "swim" in the driveway that consists of running from one end to the other "stroking" their arms. The minimum age for most kid's triathlons though is seven and we have a ways to go yet. This spring I tried to get them into a race hosted by a health club that will let kids as young as four race, but because we weren't members we weren't allowed to register. Oh, the disappointment!
My solution then was to make our own race (this comes from the same gal who started her university's magazine because there wasn't one). Plus, many moons ago I started a 5K and have been on many a race committee. I could do this.
For the most part kid's birthday parties intimidate me, what with entertaining all those kids, coming up with the right games, those damn goody bags. I have these visions of clowns and ponies and magicians. Maybe I'm haunted by the memories of my own 5-year-old birthday party. I remember the cake vividly, decorated with a clown holding balloons made of giant gum balls. After running wild through the house with my fellow party goers I puked confetti-colored vomit all over the carpet. This could be the reason why I've never had one of those three birthday parties in the house.
But the triathlon birthday party excited me, perhaps a little too much. I made and sent out race brochures for the invitations, scoped out the course at a local park, pulled together race bags (complete with swim caps and numbers) and at the last minute, because I had gone completely overboard at this point, had race t-shirts made. Who cares about pony rides when you can have race t-shirts?
There were ten kids signed up (I do hold firmly to the "invite only as many kids as their age" rule), plus my three. All in all the kids loved it, except for a few snags:
  • one little boy didn't want to get out of the water, he wanted to stay and play.
  • a little girl lost her sock in the transition, leaving her in tears, and needing a lot of convincing by her dad to carry on without it.
  • the bike course was slightly uphill making it difficult for the younger kids, especially those riding Big Wheels to make it up unassisted.
  • My very own 3-year-old melted down at the swim start and never recovered. She cried the entire race, but wouldn't stop. I think she was pissed that her sisters were ahead of her.
Some kids never got in the water, some kids decided to skip the run. Whatever. No rules. But everyone got a medal at the finish. Even better? Getting their own little bottle of Gatorade. Add a little post-race pizza and two birthday cakes (Spiderman and Princess--yes, they really are twins) and everyone left happy.

The experience left me keenly aware of why the minimum age at kid's triathlons is seven. Still I wouldn't change a thing. I vividly remember my first triathlon and even if my girls never express interest in doing another, I know they have good memories of this race and their fifth birthday party. And the bonus? No one hurled.
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