I’m probably about to forever ruin my son’s chances of ever again being invited to birthday parties for writing this post, but I need to get something off my chest.
I have a love/hate relationship with birthday parties, including the ones I’ve thrown for my kid.
On the one hand, it’s easy weekend entertainment for my singleton tot, D2, who is five.
When you have an only child you tend to rely on play dates and parties for weekend socialization.
It’s only February though and we’ve already gone to five birthday parties.
I’m burned out.
Judging from the other parents I’ve talked to, we are all sick of birthday parties.
We are tired of throwing them.
We are tired of going to them (unless there is an open bar).
What makes the birthday party death march even worse is the increasing rampant excess.
It really hit home for me when my mom came with me to the birthday party of one of D2’s friends.
I’d become so anesthetized to how crazy these parties had become I barely noticed anymore until my mom pointed it out.
This one was at our local science museum. There had to be thirty kids there with their parents. A table was groaning under the weight of a mountain of presents.
There were three STEM-themed craft stations, a clown followed by a catered Chik-fil-A lunch and a live appearance of the Chik-fil-A Cow who did photo ops with all of the kids.
Two hours later we were handed a goody bag and made our departure.
What about opening the presents? My mom asked.
I explained that no one opens gifts at birthday parties any more for practical and social reasons.
The practical reason being there are just too many presents and it would take a long time to open them all in front of a bunch of pre-schoolers jacked up on sugar.
The social reason being that it would be awkward for some parents who might not have spent much on a gift.
Cue disapproving stare from my mother.
Well, do people at least send thank you notes?
I tell her sometimes but not usually.
Let’s reminisce for a minute, shall we?
Do you remember when a birthday party used to be pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, maybe a clown followed by cake and ice cream? You’d open the presents and then everyone went home.
Not so much anymore.
If we parents stick together we can change the alarming trend of over-the-top birthday parties.
After having now attended dozens of birthday parties over the last few years, I’ve compiled a short list for how to know if your kid’s birthday party is spiraling out of control.
Consider this your early warning system:
Your invitation includes a gift registry or wish list of your tot’s most desired toys.
No. No. No. No. NO. NOPE! Don’t do it. You risk making yourself the laughing stock of the AM school drop off group and the topic of numerous withering Facebook posts. One mom explained to me that she preferred wish lists so that she knew what to buy and was assured that the birthday tyke would like the gift. I get the practicality of this. I just think it’s hard to pull of without looking tacky and making your kid look greedy. Thankfully, I’ve not seen this too often so clearly other parents agree with me on this one.
You are freaking out about what to put in the goody bags.
I don’t understand this trend. It’s un-necessary and only contributes to giving my kid more crap he doesn’t need. Besides, you’ve just shelled out $500 bucks or more for an entertaining venue, lunch, snacks and cake. In exchange your kid has received a present. Do kids really need goody bags? I think not. Can we make a parent blood pact and do away with goody bags forever?
You are frantically searching Pinterest for a birthday party theme that hasn’t been used yet
because you’ve already been to Frozen, Cinderella, Lego, Planes, Doc McStuffins, Transformer, Young Scientist, Jungle, Fire Truck, Sponge-Bob, Bubble Guppies, and Jake and the Pirates-themed parties. Planning a birthday party used to be just about balloons and coordinated plates and napkins. Now it’s practically a necessity to be a professional event planner. I fell into this trap last fall when I planned D2’s cooking-themed party at our home and nearly had a nervous breakdown. Never again.
Your kid has received so many presents he’ll be a teenager before he has time to play with them all.
This one really gets me. The amount of presents kids now get for birthdays is over the top. This is partially because of the accepted norm of inviting an entire class to the birthday rather than just close friends. One cool trend I am starting to see is parents asking for donations to a favorite charity instead of gifts. We recently attended a birthday party for one of D2’s classmates who collected food for our local Humane Society. I love this idea because it teaches children about philanthropy, sacrifice and caring for others.
You’re contemplating suing the parents whose kids are no-shows.
I understand your rage. In this day and age of Evite and Paperless Post, there is no excuse for not RSVP’ing. It’s easy. It takes five freaking seconds. Still some parents still don’t do it. At D2’s fourth birthday party, only a 1/3 of the people we invited responded one way or another. It’s irritating as hell. But don’t take it too far. One UK mom made international news when she sent a $24 bill to a little boy who was a no-show to her son’s ski-themed birthday party. The child’s dad tried to reason with the mom but she wouldn’t budge and threatened to take the family to small claims court to collect the money. This mom needs to chill.
Don’t get me wrong. Birthdays are special and deserve to be celebrated with fanfare, cake and (yes) even a few gifts.
I’ve thrown D2 two parties and while he had a blast, I think he would have been just as happy inviting a few friends over for lunch and playing games.
I spent way too much and was far too stressed out during the planning.
D2 is growing up far more privileged than either Dr. D. or I did and we don’t want him to have a sense of entitlement. So we resolved to keeping his future birthday get togethers very small.
So what do you think? Am I overreacting? Do you think kids’ birthday parties becoming too elaborate and expensive? Let me know what you think in the comments.