Magnifying glass focusing on the text "letting go, and the mystery birthday party" against a radial blue background.

Letting Go, and the Mystery Birthday Party

“The bad news is that you have strep throat,” said the Urgent Care doctor. “The good news is that we can prescribe antibiotics, give you a steroid shot, and numb your throat with novocaine to make you feel better by your daughter’s one o’clock birthday party.”


Yup. This past Sunday was Marissa’s 8th birthday party and I spent the majority of it upstairs quarantined in my room.


I had to relinquish control and for me, that can be hard.


If you've read my post about DIY birthday parties, you know that Gavin and I love to plan unique parties with the kids. This one was no exception.


For months, we'd asked Marissa how she wanted to celebrate her birthday, and she didn’t give us an answer. We offered many ideas, like taking a few of her friends to a movie, bowling, the zoo, the science museum…but she wasn't excited about any of them.


She narrowed in on a few of the details – she only wanted to invite a handful of friends and she wanted the party at our house. She also wanted an animal theme.


On our way home from school, with less than two weeks to go before the supposed party date, Marissa said, “I love solving mysteries.”


“Good,” I answered. “Then solve the mystery of what we’re doing for your party.”


And that’s when it hit me. “Hey! Let’s have a Mystery Party!” I said. “Daddy and I can create a mystery and you and your friends can solve it!”


Marissa immediately loved the idea, so as soon as we got home, I e-mailed a “save-the-date” to her friends’ parents and hopped online to research ideas.


I filled Gavin in and he came up with the idea for the mystery: someone kidnapped Kitty and Leopard (Marissa’s two favorite stuffed animals).




When it comes to party planning, Gavin and I have very different styles. I like things on a schedule. I like to have everything planned out in advance. I’m very detail-oriented, and I’m inclined to have more activities planned than are actually needed, just in case something doesn’t work out well or there’s extra time.


Gavin takes a more laid-back approach. He flies by the seat of his pants and tends to go with the flow.


Our differences can sometimes cause frustration between us, but the mix of structure and free play usually balances out, resulting in rather awesome parties.


This time, I got the invitations, cake, and party favors taken care of, but when I started to feel sick, I knew I had to leave the rest of the preparation, planning, and execution up to Gavin so that I could get well. While I knew he would do an amazing job and handle things just fine on his own, I hated being left out of something so special and not having any control over it.


mystery party invite


Needless to say, the party was a huge success. When the kids walked in, they were greeted by Gavin (a.k.a. “Butler Daddy”). They immediately noticed the “Wanted” posters hanging on the wall of the eight catnapping suspects (only three shown here).


wanted pics


As detectives, each child was given a small notepad and pen to scribble notes. They had a fantastic time running up and down the stairs to find clues that were carefully hidden all around the house.

2013-12-17 08.40.40

2013-12-17 08.41.16

catnapper clues


When they found all the clues, they went through one by one and eliminated suspects until they were left with two – Nana and Aunt Dori.



They all began pointing their fingers at Dori and she darted up the stairs. They chased her and found Leopard's tail hanging out of her suitcase in the guest room. Her alibi? She wanted to bring something back to Ohio to remind her of Marissa.


At this point in the party, about 30 minutes in, I looked at Gavin and said, “Now what?”


“Now I need to change my clothes,” he answered.


“Yeah, but…what are they going to do for the next hour and a half?”


“I don't know. Run around outside. They're having a blast.”


“If they don't have some sort of structure,” I said anxiously, “it's going to get too chaotic.”


He said, “They're eight years old. You can tell them to find five things that are blue and they'll love it.” He assured me that everything would be fine, but I was still nervous.


I breathed deeply, went into my room, and surrendered control.


Ok, I might have sent him a text or two with a few party game suggestions, but that was it. He never replied.


I watched out the bedroom window as the kids played soccer tag in the backyard and got sweaty. I joined them in singing “Happy Birthday” and eating cake. Then I returned to bed and heard them playing some other games.


Marissa and Gavin did magic tricks. The kids opened their favors (spy glasses, invisible ink activity books, and magnifying glasses). Then they all went home.


mystery party cake


Gavin was right. They had a blast. It wasn't exactly the way I would've done it, but that's not what mattered. What mattered was that Marissa, Dalia, and their friends all had an amazing time. Mystery solved. Case closed.


Today is Marissa's actual birthday. It's hard to believe that eight years ago today (at 3:44 pm to be exact), my journey of motherhood began. She is not only my child, but my teacher as well. She is constantly teaching me the lessons I need to learn about life, love, and gratitude. Happy 8th Birthday, Marissa. Mommy loves you!


If you liked this post, please leave a comment, share it with your friends, and “like” it on Facebook. And for even more great tips on becoming a calm and connected parent (delivered right to your inbox every Tuesday), please subscribe to this blog.

Become the mom you've always wanted to be

Watch my free video, "How to Get Your Kids to Listen Without Yelling at Them"

A pink and white badge with the phrase "less drama more mama" encircling a heart.

Share this

A smiling woman in a purple top, seated against a neutral background.

Hi, I’m Pam

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Master Parenting Coach, and former K-8 School Counselor, I’m on a mission to empower moms to feel calmer and more connected to their kids.

Enter your name and email to watch the free video!

Please read my privacy policy to see I take your privacy seriously.