Saturday, December 14, 2013

Who Are Children's Parties Really For?

My son is turning 7 on Sunday. We had planned a trip to Legoland, but for various reasons we are having to postpone it for another weekend. So here I am, second week of school, three days away from the weekend and no plans for his birthday. Shit. I enter panic mode. Not only that, but our whole family is out of town and the hubby is leaving on Friday and won't be back until late afternoon on Sunday. The kids and I would typically go with him but we're house-sitting for the folks and they have a dog, so I can't leave town. I rack my brain for a while and decide that a couple of hours at the local splash park with friends, snacks and cupcakes will be perfect. Then I start to question myself. Will it be good enough? Will the birthday boy be happy with a last minute, thrown together party?

What the hell has happened to children's birthday parties? When I was a kid I remember inviting some friends, most, if not all, attended. We had a couple of bowls of chips, maybe some sandwiches, we played pin the tale on the donkey and hide and seek, had some cake and presents and everyone went home. Nowadays it seems as though you can't get away with anything less than lavish. You have people hiring ponies and magicians for their kid's first birthday. How do you compete with the parents who have 4 different bounce houses, mermaids swimming in their pool and real, live goldfish as party favors?

If you do decide to do the "simple" homemade birthday party, in your home, complete with a cake baked by you and simple party favors also assembled by you, you're in for a rude awakening. After checking with the birthday boy, who changes his mind more than his underwear when it comes to what theme he wants, you start your search for ideas. You probably go on Pinterest and Google and search for "circus birthday party". And here is what smacks you in the face:

How much did they pay for those invitations? Probably more than you had planned on spending on the entire party. 
My wedding invitations weren't even this elaborate!


Really? Where does one find all these props? No way this is homemade. 
I can smell the professional party planner from here.


Where the fuck do you get a real monkey from for your mantle?


You can't just bake a regular cake and stick some plastic animals on top? 
You have to go with edible clowns?! Can you say "professional baker"?

At what point in time did we start to think it was OK to raise the bar so high on a child's birthday party? I mean, the kid probably isn't even going to remember the damn party. I put together a Dora the Explorer party for my daughter's 3rd birthday. I baked a regular sheet cake but painstakingly drew Dora on and decorated her with icing. Do you think she remembers it? Not at all. All the time and effort we put in to these celebrations and they aren't even remembered apart from the photos uploaded to Facebook and Instagram. And with as many parties as we all have to attend in one calendar year, even the adults have a hard time remembering them.

So who are children's birthday parties really for? Us. The doting parents. We have to prove to ourselves and all we know that we love our children so friggin' much, we'll spend an entire week's salary on one friggin' party. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. What starts out as a simple get together quickly spirals out of control with the cake, the decorations, the party favors and games, the food and drinks. We spend months planning these things and they are over in a flash. Nothing show for it but the wake of death and destruction caused by the tornado of psychotic kids hopped up on sugar and artificial food colorings that just ran rampant through you home obliterating everything in its path. 

I say it is enough! It is time we get back to simpler times. Bake a cake, hang some balloons from the ceiling fan, put out a couple of bowls of chips, offer some juice pouches and hand out a little plastic bag with a few items from the dollar store. Take a deep breath and chill. Seriously. I don't know why I found myself in such a tiz-waz over the whole thing. I mean, we bought tickets to fucking LEGOLAND! The whole deal behind that was not planning an actual birthday party. I felt so disappointed that we weren't able to go this weekend, that I assumed my son would be crushed, devastated, if we didn't have some form of celebration. 

So off to the splash park we will go with some water bottles and cupcakes and he will have an absolute blast. He won't care how many people are there, how many presents he gets or how elaborate the cupcakes are. He will be thrilled that he gets to have a party, play in the water and spend time with friends. At the end of the day he won't remember how extravagant, or not, the decorations are, or how much money is spent on the favors. I won't care either. I don't need to prove to anyone that I love my son, least of all him. He already knows. And I will be reminded of how much he loves me by the smile on his face, the giggles that fill the air and those big green eyes looking up at me as he hugs me tightly and tells me that it was the best birthday party. Ever.


This picture just freaks me out. They look like they are about to go on a sadistic killing spree.



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