Remember when you were a kid and birthday parties consisted of cake and ice cream and a few friends? Today, bounce houses, catered food, $30 goody bags, and live entertainment are the norm for a kid who’s turning two. Parents try to outdo each other by depleting their child’s college fund on her Sweet Sixteen party.
However, some parents are reacting to this trend by organizing a campaign called “Birthdays Without Pressure. Their website (www.birthdayswithoutpressure.com) intends to start a national conversation about the absurdity of today’s birthday parties. They have a wonderful section that lists examples of extreme measures parents take to ensure a successful event. Some include:
“A Chicago party invitation requests gift worth at least $35. The mother explains that last year her child received some gifts worth only $10, which did not even cover her costs. “
“Half birthday parties (like 9.5 years) are becoming the fashion in Chicago, so that if Johnny is unfortunate enough to have a winter birthday, he can have an outdoor summer party too.”
“In one community where ponies and horses are common, parents hire a llama for their child’s party.”
“A wealthy New York father throws a $10 million party for his 13 year old daughter’s birthday, including the band Aerosmith and $10,000 gift bags.”
Those who know me recognize that I have fallen into this birthday-party-pressure-trap. Although I have managed to stay on budget, I typically spend months planning for the special day. I had convinced myself that I was not trying to make a statement, I was trying to make a memory. However, this rationale fell apart when I took the Birthday Party Pressure Quiz found on the website. I scored 18 out of 20. They recommended having 911 on my speed dial for my next party.
There are some things that I am going to be doing differently when planning the next birthday.
- Limit the Party Guests
The standard equation should be the child’s age + 1. For example, my son is turning 7 so eight children are the limit. However, for the mothers of boys, please keep this in mind: the adage that “two heads are better than one” does not apply to boys. The intellectual capacity among boys in one room decreases as the number of boys in that room increases. For some reason, boys do stupid things when they are around their kind.
- No Gifts Please
As it is, you risk your life when you open our toy closet. It has turned into a graveyard of sorts for never-played with toys. The last things my kids need are more light sabers or stuffed animals.
- It’s Not About Me
This is not a competition. I don’t have anything to prove. I will not be considered a bad parent if the birthday party doesn’t have a live band or chocolate fountain.
I recently went to a birthday party where the mom (who is much smarter than me) held the event in an empty gym. She threw in 20 balls and let the kids be creative. When we left my son said, “that was the best party I have ever been to!”
The lesson here is that ingredients for making a memory do not always include bells and whistles. The trick is hosting a party where your child can feel special among friends and family. It’s kinda like the kid that gets the new wagon for Christmas only to spend the morning playing with the box it came in. Kids can manage to find fun in any situation – even if it doesn’t include a pony ride.