I was browsing Pinterest on my phone last week, feeling a slight twinge of guilt that I hadn’t planned on doing tri-colored aqua rice crispy treats or pretzel sticks dipped in aqua-colored almond bark, rolled in matching sugar crystals for either of my daughters’ upcoming birthdays.

I’m sure my soon-to-be 3-year-old would have loved it if we had hired someone to dress up as “Elsa” and come to her birthday party, but I hope she’ll be just as happy with the Frozen-themed bounce house that we splurged on instead.

Unlike my first child’s first birthday, there will be no professional photographer at the party, no fondant, multi-layered cake. There will be no professional catering (unless you count Little Ceasar’s drive-thru pizza and grocery store cupcakes) and no hand-painted birthday banners like I did for my oldest kids’ birthdays for the first few years.

When you have three kids and work full time, some things fall to the wayside. When you have two kids whose birthdays are the same week — and end up hosting their two separate parties on the same day — convenience rules the day.

There was a time when I’d spend weeks working on my yard and cleaning my house to make sure the backyard birthday party was perfect. But for sanity’s sake, we have parties elsewhere these days. And while it may cost more money up front to do so, the sweat and stress it saves is worth every penny.

As I was planning my girls’ birthday parties recently, thinking back on previous parties through the years, it occurred to me: My oldest child is turning nine. She is halfway through her childhood already.

They say you blink and your children are grown. And in those early, blurry years of diapers and midnight feedings, the thought of the first day of kindergarten or after-school sports seem so far off. Even now, with an almost 3-, 6- and 9-year-old, the idea of high school dances and driver’s license tests seem like a lifetime away.

But I know they aren’t. My oldest child will be able to start driving in six short years. In less than a decade, she’ll be packing for college.

The college students I teach every week are much closer to my kids’ ages than they are to mine. Gulp.

My almost 9-year-old is not a small child, but she’s not a teenager, either. Yet the streaks of independence that have always been there in her lean, determined little body have started to shine through lately. As we stood in line at Publix last week, debating on cupcakes or a larger cake, and debating over icing colors — why she doesn’t want chocolate icing for a chocolate-themed birthday party is beyond me — I had to remind myself: I need to loosen the reins.

At nine, my eldest wants and deserves some control. Just as she strived for independence in picking out her own clothes as a toddler and putting on her own shoes as a preschooler, it’s just as vital that I give her the leeway to express herself today, especially when it comes to how she celebrates her birthday.

And so, I let her choose who she wants to invite and left it up to her to get their addresses and to deliver the invites. She’s chosen what kind of party she wants and what they’ll eat, down to the type of cake and which color of icing.

It doesn’t sound like much, maybe. But for me, it’s a practice in patience and give-and-take. It’s a reminder that parties don’t have to be Pinterest-perfect. And what matters is that my kids are healthy, happy and learning how to be independent.

Because my oldest daughter is turning 9 — and I know 18 is just around the corner.

— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.