Sunday, October 23, 2011

When Birthday Parties Become Larger Than Life


Yesterday afternoon I took B to his first birthday party he had been invited to by a classmate. Pretty exciting, right?

This party was BIG. The parents had gone all out. Afterwards I estimated that the party likely cost upward of $500 for 2 hours of fun. The whole class and some parents (of younger kids including myself) were in attendance. The decor was of course superhero themed with licensed characters galore. This was actually the second "larger than life" party we have attended. Aside from the monetary cost of the party, what really bothered me was the following...

- Even if we try really hard to limit the exposure of our own children to licensed characters (a whole other post for another day) they will inevitably learn of these characters through classmates. B goes to a Montessori school and while the learning environment doesn't support these types of characters i.e. children are not allowed to bring toys from home etc. I have found that most other parents do not practice the Montessori method in the home. We now run the risk of our kid having the "lame" party with no superheros.

- Extravagant parties set a precedent for the birthday child who is receiving these type of parties but also for the other children and parents attending the parties. They "set the bar" so to speak, for subsequent birthday parties. Que massive anxiety attack.

- While parties used to be centred around the birthday child, aside from seeing this child blow out the candles and receive the first piece of cake, there was very little indication of the significance of the event to the birthday child. This could've been due to the size of the party....which brings me to..

- The size of the party... the fact that everyone in the class was invited was odd to me. Growing up, for my friends and myself, birthday parties were only ever limited to close friends. Surely the birthday child was not close friends with all 20 of the children in the class. I realize now-a-days parents are so concerned with children feeling left out. But in speaking with my mother about the party afterwards, she mentioned that an integral part of growing up for us was learning to accept that we cannot always be invited to everything.

- Gifts. It is extremely hard to find anything that even looks like a substantial gift - which is important for keeping up with the Joneses in the birthday department - these days for under $30. Not to mention the fact that a lot of these kids with the extravagant parties have every toy imaginable already. Furthermore, how do you pick out a gift for a child that both yourself and your child, if they aren't really close friends with the birthday child or are still quite young, do not REALLY know very well? (not usually a problem with parties limited to close friends only). But what really bothers me is that at both said party and other party of similar magnitude, gifts were not opened in front of the party guests. This means that the birthday child does not have to thank each child for their gift, appreciate the thought put into gifts by close friends, and of course learn how to appropriately handle situations where say..they receive something they already have or is a duplicate of another gift. For this birthday, B wanted to make his friend a card. He worked really hard at this card and I assured him that his friend would love it and appreciate his hard work. Unfortunately we'll never know..we'll also never know if the card got mixed up and placed with another gift by mistake or lost all together, something that could easily be identified if the opening took place in front of the guests.

There is so much more I'd like to say on this but for now...

End rant.

5 comments:

Kelsey said...

We don't have kids yet but I'm kind of dreading getting swept up in all the birthday craziness like you're talking about. I'm not sure where the balance is - you don't want to exclude your kid from attending parties and making friends but then the events seem so overwhelming! What about the parents of the other Montessori kids - so they have birthday parties more inline with your philosophies?

Kristy said...

Oh I know! The balance is the worst part. My big fear is that kids won't find a traditional birthday party or traditional gifts fun and it will inevitably reflect back on my children. Kids can be so cruel too... and re: the Montessori parents... this grandiose party was for a kid in B's class at the Montessori school. Most parents, from what I can see, just don't practice Montessori in the home sadly enough. Sigh.

Sarah said...

Love the blog redesign!!!
Boo to the overindulgent party. It sets an expectation that is ridiculous for parents to reach. You know though, the best party I ever went to involved supersoakers, a slip n slide & an ice cream cake. I was 6 & it's the only birthday party I can still vividly remember- so simple can really be better!!

Kristy said...

Thanks Sarah - it needed a little bit of an overhaul! I'm thinking a make your own ice-cream sundae bar for B's 4th birthday. I may possibly be a little bit crazy thinking about it already..see what happens when other parents start setting high standards? haha

kristi said...

i'm totally cheering you on over here. x.