Birthday Parties

Party: A party is a gathering of people who have been invited by a host for the purposes of socializing, conversation, or recreation. A party will typically feature food and beverages, and often music and dancing as well. (Wikipedia)

So, who here loves a good party? I know I do! Except of course when it’s a party of a small person. My small people included.

I know when I was a small person I had birthday parties, but I don’t really remember them. One I do remember was when I was about 8 or 9, and I spent the entire party crying in the bath (no I don’t know why I chose there to cry) because one of my neighbours had eaten my birthday Twix. (Yes, yes I know, spoilt brat does spring to mind!!) But parties when I was young were very simple, you went round to someone’s house, played pass the parcel (with only ONE prize at the end, not with sweets in every layer because heaven forbid a child misses out) You played sleeping lions and had some food. Simple. Fun. But oh no, that is not allowed nowadays. Certainly not where I live. We have to have the loudest, most expensive, craziest parties ever. Ice-skating, horse-riding, swimming, tobogganing, flying to the f***ing mooning! My daughter was once invited to a shopping party, where the children were each given £10 to spend as they wished! Ridiculously extravagant in my opinion.

I’m beginning to think more and more that parents around here think the amount of money they spend on their child’s party equates to the amount they love them. They think that the more they spend on their children the more it shows everyone how much they love them. Maybe it’s that lovely parental guilt kicking in, possibly because the mum has to go out to work, but it worries me that parents think they need to shower their children with money in order for them to feel loved. It reminds me of the lady that appeared in our newspapers last year, who spends £6000 on each of her children at Christmas. Do not even get me started on her.

Where I live it also seems that every parent wants to out do each other with their children’s party and there is definitely an element of keeping up with the Joneses. With the activity, the number of invitees, the food, the god dammed party bags. And in my opinion, it’s all getting a little out of hand!

Having been a single parent with my daughter for several years, I never went overboard with her parties. She either had them at home or in the local church hall, with a few of her closest friends and ME providing the entertainment! (Lucky lucky girl I hear you cry!) Party bags for her were a bar of chocolate attached to a helium balloon, not a bag filled with a load of tat that will undoubtedly be immediately discarded in favour of the chocolate bar at the bottom. I remember clearly at my daughter’s 5th birthday party (Which we’d had at home) one very vocal child exclaimed, ‘but where is my party bag, what is this?’ when she was handed her balloon. Needless to say, she wasn’t invited the following year.

Children expect so much these days. And parents feel they have to give it. And it makes me wonder if some parents are afraid to say no? Is that why EVERY child must have a sweet for being ‘out’ in musical bumps, or a chocolate in between every pass the parcel layer? What is wrong with teaching children to be gracious losers? Because they certainly as hell won’t always win, or get everything they want in life just by default. More often than not you have to work for these things. Whenever I play games with my children I always try and win! And quite often I do! And do you know what, they don’t mind one bit, saying congratulations to me when I do!

Parties just seem an endless source of unnecessary stress. Especially when you get to the stage where the parents just drop their children off and then trot off for a couple of hours of childfree blissness! I’ve hosted one party when a child allergic to eggs ate a mini scotch egg, and another where we lost a friend’s sleeping bag and overnight bag at a bowling alley. And on a few weeks ago, at my son’s joint birthday party, we lost a child. The birthday girl. She was only gone for what could have been 15 minutes max, but it was enough for her parents to completely panic. It turns out she was in the toilet. They hadn’t thought to look there.

No matter how well planned the party is, or how organised and in control you feel, life (and parties!) have a way of throwing something at you. Usually it’s just that you’re one party bag too short, or that you have to deal with a tantrumming child because they didn’t win. But sometimes it’s a bit more serious than that. (I refer to the egg eating and child losing here!) And I know as a teacher I should be used to being responsible for other people’s children, but it’s not easy. There’s a lot of guilt attached if something goes wrong, even if the children’s parents are there!

My son’s party that weekend made me think about what he’ll remember about his parties in years to come. Will he remember the child from pre-school that he doesn’t really know being there because we needed to invite everybody? Will he remember the party bag with the carefully thought out gifts in it? I doubt it. All he remembers about his party last year was his Gruffalo cake. And when asked what was his favourite thing about this year’s he simply replied, ‘I loved my Spiderman cake!’

So next year I’m going to trust my instincts and throw him a party with just his closest friends at home, and not have a crazily expensive party that I think he ‘should’ have just because everyone else is having one. Just a party with the perfect cake, and I guarantee he won’t feel like he’s missed out.

So how do you feel about parties? Does the thought fill you will dread or do you think throwing the biggest party ever is what your child deserves?

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13 thoughts on “Birthday Parties

  1. Good post! You’re so right about the extravagance and cost people put into children’s parties nowadays and it’s so unnecessary at the end of the day. We opted for a party at home for my son’s last birthday and I didn’t invite the whole class. I think the party should be about what’s fun for your child (& manageable for the parents!) and not about competing with other parents. x

  2. I have managed to avoid birthday parties so far, but then, my son is only 2. I think next year I might invite some of his friends over, but I am totally with you on the ridiculousness of extravagant parties. Like you say, all they really care about is the cake! In fact, yesterday we went to a church service, walked around town, had lunch somewhere, went to an Easter Egg hunt where my son glued and coloured and stickered – and when I asked him in the evening if he’d had a nice day and what he did, he said: “Chocolate!” I asked him what else he’d done. The answer: “Eating chocolate. Lotsa chocolate.” Basically, for his third birthday I might just sit him on the sofa in front of his favourite TV programme with some chocolate cake, and I think he’d have the best birthday ever!

  3. I’m yet to do a bithday party as my baby is 5months. However, I’m going to rock the old school birthday party when I do – afterall, vintage is tres chic and ‘less is more’: a party bag, a bit of cake and like you mentioned, from my childhood too, a spot of sleeping lions (love it) and pass the parcel.

  4. I so agree! It’s insane, expensive and more about what the parents want than the kids! My son’s birthday will be a picnic in our local park, friends and family will be invited, I will provide a cake, they bring their own food, we all have fun, minimal costs. Not because I am mean, or because we can’t afford it, but because he is 3, and doesn’t care, as long as he gets to see his friends and have fun, and frankly, because I am too lazy to try and compete with the party competition and spend silly money on stuff he won’t even remember!

  5. I tried to comment on this on my phone but it clearly didn’t take. I completely agree with you on this. We didn’t bother with parties this year at all. Was just too much going on. Next year I’m thinking a trip to Lego land with his best mate (for my son who will be 5).

  6. Like yourself and others here, I despair of the prevailing competitive and materialistic attitude. Karen’s idea seems great to me. No-one’s going to spill orange juice on the carpet, are they? Clearing up will be simple! Innocent fun will he had by all!

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