When my daughter's family received the colorful, joyful invitation to the party, they immediately marked the date and location on the calendar.

When my daughter's family received the colorful, joyful invitation to the party, they immediately marked the date and location on the calendar.

Upon re-reading the card, they were astonished to realize that the invitation was REALLY addressed to their spaniel, Woody! Yes, friends, a birthday party for a dog at a nearby park. No presents please but, you may be sure, despite that request, the birthday dog received many gifts! And, the party was bright with balloons, treats, colorful signs and games. The canine guests had a wild time as shivering adults sipped hot coffee and played the role of observers and sometimes law-enforcement professionals. (Actually, the birthday dog was punished for yanking a special birthday Frisbee out of the mouth of OUR Woody and had to be put in Time Out and told to sit quietly in the van and WATCH the party events and think about his behavior.)

We are a culture that truly enjoys celebrating! And what better way to celebrate than planning a fun party? Hmmm! When the photographer arrived at the recreation center's community room to commemorate the first birthday of a little girl, he told me the baby slept through most of the activities! That's when I really began thinking about parties.

Sometimes the decorations, invitations, party favors, special entertainers, creative menus are not truly appreciated or acknowledged by the birthday child! Sometimes the boxes that gifts come in are the best presents! Sometimes singing the Happy Birthday song and blowing out the candles are the BEST activities! Sometimes we do go overboard in our zeal for celebrating special occasions. Sometimes a picnic or arts-and-crafts party (where everyone can "create" a picture or sculpture or beaded bracelet) is the most fun! Sometimes meeting at a favorite park for playground fun followed by cake and ice cream is a great idea! Sometimes a gathering that features a friendly music maker or singer leading a sing-along, followed by birthday cupcakes and fruit punch is a WOW! A summer pool party at the community or park pool can be a splash! Bathing suits, towels, fun together!

As we make decisions planning celebrations, our choices are numerous! We have whole industries devoted to party time with a plethora of fabulous offerings for every occasion, spare none. But, remember the boxes that gifts come in! Remember the splash of friends swimming together! Remember the afternoon of friends around a table of craft materials and making art! Remember a birthday baseball game or a birthday hike in the woods! Good possibilities for memorable occasions! If we go way overboard to celebrate the birthdays of our young children, what is left for graduations, engagements, weddings? What's next?

-"Mamaloshen" is the Yiddish term for "the mother tongue" and we have adapted it here to represent the wisdom of Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, who is on a mission to help parents raise happy, healthy, creative children.