Are Kids' Birthday Parties Out of Control?
Around the time that my first child was turning two, I began hearing about elaborate birthday parties for other kids in the area. At first I heard about a mom renting a bounce house. A little pricey? Sure. Crazy? Not quite. But the stories kept growing from there. Eventually the stories turned to moms fighting among each other because of whose child got invited to the grandest second birthday party of all. This party not only had a bounce house, face painting, a clown. It actually had pony rides and a carousel.
At a birthday party. For a two year old.
Now I love a good party as much as anyone, and I certainly love my children. But here we were only two years into parenting and it seemed to me that birthday parties had gotten completely out of control. Parents were spending a small fortune, moms were fighting with each other about invitations, and nobody was focusing on the kids. I was ready to get off the crazy train.
We’ve continued to hold birthday parties for both of our children, but we’ve always kept both the budget and the invitation list within reason. Thankfully our kids have settled into a group of friends whose parents have no interest in renting a carousel for their parties. Goody bags include a few small treats, and the food is generally something that real kids will eat like pizza or cupcakes. I’ll admit that more than once I spent an entire day creating a cake masterpiece that looked better than it tasted, but in general birthdays in our home have been about the birthday child, not the birthday party.
It’s hard to blame parents for the out-of-control birthday parties they feel pressured to throw for their children. Reality TV programs show not only sixteenth birthday parties that end with the birthday girl receiving a sports car from her daddy…delivered by a helicopter…with a celebrity in it, but they also include shows featuring elaborate parties for children of all ages that sometimes cost tens of thousands of dollars. I’ve personally heard of birthday parties sponsored by companies with branded invitations and product pushing swag bags instead of goody bags. These events make pony rides in the backyard seem understated.
The fact is that these out of control parties are for parents, not kids. They’ve become a status symbol, a chance to outdo one another. What kids really want is time with their friends and a chance to celebrate their one big day of the year. My daughter’s seventh birthday was one of her favorites, and it was just her spending time at our home with three close buddies. And the best part of her party is that we’ll still be able to afford to send her to college one day.