Like many kids growing up in the ’80s, I attended a few friends’ and classmates’ birthday parties each year, and the parties were mostly simple and small talk. Parties were rarely attended by several children, and the event was usually held at a friend’s house. The birthday party I went to wasn’t in a dingy party room in the basement of a Pizza Hut, but it was so unusual that it still haunts me more than 30 years later.
The whole thing can start to feel more like a joyless death march than a celebration of life.
When I had kids, I had a rude awakening. By the mid-2000s, I couldn’t help but notice that things had changed. Birthday parties have become much better planned and executed, often with elaborate themes, decorations and entertainment. It was often better than the place I did. Overall… more.
Also a planner. Plus parents. more children. more gifts. Of course, this leads to more expenses, more eyes on the birthday child, and therefore more disappointment for the birthday child to melt away from disappointment with gifts, disagreements over the order of events, or sheer overstimulation. Putting it away leads to higher stakes. And that was before the rise of social media.
In an era that “couldn’t have been on Instagram,” the birthday and industry complex (as this Reuters article so accurately defines the situation) is getting bigger, more competitive, It would only get more expensive, but ironically less fun for everyone involved. Between the stress of planning and paying for these shindigs and the pressure of painting it all in the most pastel positive light on your social media feed, it’s all a joyless death march rather than a celebration of life. All this hustle and bustle overshadows the actual point of recognizing the birthday child on the special day. Participate — stand in a chair in the middle of the room and yell “STOP!!!!”
A recent BabyCenter poll showed that 11% of parents spent $500 or more on their baby’s first birthday. (25% is spent between her $200 and $500.) According to one study by supermarket retailer Asda, the average UK parent spends her $28,000 on a child’s birthday by age 21. We found in the same Reuters article that
Until you do the math, this seems like a staggering number. Hundreds of dollars for a space big enough to hold everyone, $250 for a bounce house, $250+ an hour with professional characters, a custom birthday cake to feed everyone (including professional characters) $150+ per person multiplied by 30 kids in a $10 gift bag. Don’t forget themed napkins, plates, cups and decorations. It’s easy to lose track of your budget when you’re focused on creating the perfect event for your grandchildren.
All this would just be dandy if these Showstopper Junior Galas were bringing us, or our descendants, endless joy. In speaking with other parents, I often hear concerns about children as young as 3 or 5 (sometimes even younger) not knowing the “rules” about what deserves a birthday celebration. to And put on a successful Instagram-worthy party while working within the constraints of normal human budgets, schedules, spaces, artistic limitations, and tolerances that process an entire kindergarten classroom and all of its parents for hours. It emphasizes the reality of a precious Saturday afternoon. Not to mention the resentment that this is an expectation in the first place. And it starts younger and younger, before the child even remembers the event.
Let me be clear, I have no bones to choose from with my naturally artistic and organized parents who love planning impressive parties. If anything, this expectation that we are all supposed to do seems to take away how special it is to have real talent in this field. ‘ and ‘You deserve to be celebrated as a special breed.
Instead, we all have certain gifts and lost the idea that party planning doesn’t have to be one of them to be a good parent. When I can’t do it, I often yield to pressure and ask for help, whether I can afford it or not, but by posting everything on Instagram, I make sure to claim my credit.
“I worry about the message[these parties]are sending to our kids,” says teacher and parenting blogger Charissa West. “When her fifth birthday party equates to an episode of MTV’s ‘My Super Sweet 16,’ it begs the question: The rise of entitlement has been an ongoing concern among the general public for years now, and I think some of these birthday parties could very well be a prime example of that.
She believes this pressure evolved organically and gradually. “Certainly for some it’s about ‘keeping up with Jones’ and trying to win each other over,” says West. “But for most people, I think it’s slowly, casually expected to rise to the point where parents consider it the ‘norm’ of a birthday party. ”
But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it as the new, immutable normal. You can opt out of birthday madness. No matter where you belong, we promise there are plenty of heartfelt and fun ways to celebrate your child’s journey around the sun again.
Nowhere in the parenting books does it say that inviting kids over 30 to a party makes them happier and more adaptable. , “So who’s Carter?” — you probably never even know it happened without them.
And I’m sure most of your adult friends would be happy to keep Saturdays open. Sitting in a chair she watches her three-year-old tear apart a pile of presents for an hour.
Even if you don’t post a single photo of what you share on social media, we promise it’s real. (Hot IG tip: Pictures of kids blowing out the candles always work well, and the blur from the flame makes it hard to tell the cake is your own sloppy, loving creation.)
Most of your adult friends will appreciate being able to choose to make Saturdays free and give your child lavish attention in a more authentic way.
A few weeks ago my 10 year old daughter Clara, along with 6 or 7 other children, was invited to her friend’s and his friend’s sister’s birthday party. When I picked her up (her parents, luckily, weren’t on the guest list), Clara grabbed her gift bag. All the way back to her house, she told me how happy she was. The two-legged team that was on the verge of winning, the hot dogs the kids ate in the backyard, and the homemade chocolate girlfriend cake for dessert.
“It was the best party ever,” she sighed happily.
Isn’t that amazing? What children really want is to have fun with their friends. An expensive themed cake or the “wow” factor that comes from staying up all night and making favors might warm the hearts of hard-working parents, but it doesn’t matter to kids. Step away and embrace the charm of a simple birthday party. At least we’ll all be stress free, sleepless and broke.