Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Celebration Expectations

Bug has been invited to a lot of birthday parties over the last year. And I noticed something.

All these parties were held at swimming pools, or rec centers, or other places that were rented out. Kids went swimming, or bowling, or golfing, or a variety of other activities. Bug came home with impressive party favors.

It felt that the parties were huge, elaborate affairs. And mostly expensive ones.

It was the same way in Utah. The couple parties we attended for his school friends were just as big.

What happened to the birthday parties that I went to as a little girl? We went over to a friend's house, played silly games, sang "Happy Birthday" and ate cake. When we were older, a birthday party involved a sleep over.

But renting out a skating rink? Hiring a magician? Catering?

These were not my experience with birthday parties as a child. And that's what I'm talking about here. Birthday parties for 6, 7, and 8 year old children.

Bug's birthday is this weekend. I'm feeling a lot of pressure (mostly from myself, obviously) to live up to the expectations he may have about what a birthday party is. He's mentioned how great so-and-so's birthday was, or the fun things they did at this party. And even though our budget is tight as a single income family, I'll admit it. I was tempted.

But that's not what we're doing. Hubster and I talked to Bug and we told him that we will give him a wonderful party. And that's what we are going to do.

At our house. No clowns, no catering, no special order cakes.

We've invited his classmates and some other friends. We're going to serve a cake that I make, with simple food we buy. We're going to play games. We're going to keep it simple.

But we are going to have a great time. We've got a great theme. We've got fantastic ideas for decorations and party favors. It's going to be a lot of fun. The expression on Bug's face when he sees the things for the party confirms this.

Because it's about celebrating the child, celebrating the moment. Not about breaking the bank.

What about you? Have you noticed that parties just seem to get bigger all the time? Or is it just me? Am I being reasonable, or just cheap? Anyone else feeling pressure from unrealistic expectations? I would love some input!!


  1. I agree with what you are doing. Some people get so carried away. When I was a kid all we did was have a cake and whatever we wanted for dinner. It was just the family. I never felt depribed of anything.

  2. It really does seem like kids birthday parties are getting too elaborate. I think keeping it more simple is more intimate, more special and like you said is "celebrating the child". Good for you for not giving in to the "peer pressure". Have a great party!

  3. I went to a party for a 3 year old that had a pony ride, visiting safari, sno cone machine, canrival type games, popcorn machine, face painter, and so on. It was insane. And the birthday kid spent the whole time pouting and crying and hiding because it was all so overwhelming!!

    We've kept celebrations pretty simple. We did a "big deal" for Teagan's birthday this year because she turned 5- she had her first friend party. We did a Build A Bear party which was easy and less expensive than I'd budgeted for (bonus!) and didn't take a lot of time and all her little school friends left with an awesome favor- the stuffed friend they'd made themselves! We also had a gathering of friends and family that evening- we rented a community building in our town (rented it for donations of canned goods for the food pantry) and had food trays and borrowed a bounce house from church and brought our little basketball hoop. It was busy and crowded and I can't imagine doing it every year...

    So we will stick to small gatherings- out to dinner or some such thing- except for birthdays that feel like milestones.

  4. Kids parties are stupid these days. Good for you for not giving into to peer pressure. I think a party at home is a great idea and Bug and his friends will have a blast. Now if you can only find watermelon with seeds to have a seed-spiting contest.

    Happy Birthday.

  5. even in where i live (the philippines), this is very noticeable. i know of one kid, who had close to 500 guests (kids and adults). they had clowns, magicians, even acrobats. oh, and that was his first birthday.

    when we celebrated my son's 1st birthday, we did rent out a local mdconald's, but for more practical reasons. my son underwent surgery before he turned 1, so a lot of people wanted to see how he was doing. we have a huge family (almost 100, just on my side) and there's no way they'd fit on our house.

  6. Yes, I've seen this AND succombed to it too! Then I realized that at every extravagant party my oldest left in tears. At the simple ones she left happy. Starting last year we've scaled back considerably - family party only, except for milestone birthdays - 5, 10, 13, 16 are the ones left in my house. The kids LOOK like they're having a good time at the extravagant ones, the parents TALK sbout how impressed they are, but the really successful parties for the kids are the simple ones. And that's who it's supposed to be about, right?

  7. Some 3rd graders at our school this year got picked up after school in a freakin' limo. A LIMO!!! Good for you for a simple party. Can't wait to hear what a success it was.

  8. I would love to go completely crazy with birthday parties for my son, but two things stop me: 1. Our budget. I gave up my income to be at home with him, so things have to stay pretty simple. 2. I think it's an important lesson for him to learn that everything in life is not over the top. If he has a petting zoo at his 3rd birthday & I rent out an entire facility for him for his 10th bday what is he going to expect when he's 16 or for his wedding? I'll save the money on the bday parties & put it towards a college education fund so that he won't have to take out student loans.

    Thanks for stopping by Mommy Monologues!
    I love it that you're a Katherine with a K--I am too!!!

  9. I still have not had friend parties for either of my girls. Bananas has gone to a couple of parties that were small groups of kids at big places. It totally makes me nervous all those big parties with tons of kids. No one knows who belongs to who or who is watching who- not to mention liability..... It all feels very dangerous to me. I am with you on keeping things simple and inexpensive. I have to do this all the time at work. The kids have just as much fun playing games and small activities as they do on the big things- sometimes more! I do think having a theme makes it more exciting. I didn't need limos and tiaras and gowns to make me feel awesome at my 16th. I think a CD player Christmas lights and snacks were way more fun. Parties should be about the people not the activities.

  10. You've got exactly the right idea. Those parties can really escalate and the kids have a lot of fun with the most simple things. Good for you for keeping your perspective!

  11. We don't have kids, but I've been hearing this from friends and relatives about today's parties. It's crazy. The fanciest party I ever had as a child was a roller skating rink party, but it wasn't that pricey and all of the kids were doing it. We'd often have Burger King parties and my mom said they were very reasonable and parents had them because their houses were too small and it was less work for them. Cakes were simple and included usually. I like your idea and I'm sure Bug will love his party :)

  12. I agree, it's crazy. Unfortunately, we gave in to peer pressure (especially from my mother-in-law) and have big parties. I think Bug's party sounds nice and everyone will have a good time.

  13. I also think it's crazy--we've been to several bigger parties (things at Thanksgiving Point, or Pirate Bay Pizza, for 3-4 year olds... who can't even work the arcades at the pizza place!), and I always think it's pretty crazy to spend that kind of money (and those are probably small scaled compared to some). As for my girls--since the two older girls have birthdays pretty close to each other, we did one princess party at our house. I made tutus out of cheapo tulle, a few capes out of $1/yrd fabric for boys, they decorated their own crowns that I cut out of posterboard, we ate cupcakes and drank squeeze-its, and they played pin the kiss on the frog. It went over amazingly well. Everyone seemed to have fun, and I think the only reason anyone cried was because they had to go home. :) I'm pretty sure I spent less than $25 total.

    I just think in this world, where everything is so commercial and overdone, we should cut back a little. Show our kids that they don't have to have everything to be happy. You are right on. :)

  14. I am so thrilled you are doing a home birthday party and I know that Bug will be thrilled and so excited to have his friends and loved ones there to celebrate with him.

    I can't wait to see pictures and hear all about this. I will be thinking about you this weekend.

    We have seen this too and Mr. and I have talked endlessly about it. We went to a one year old's party last month and there were three clowns, two bounce houses, snow cones, cotton candy, and candy bar, catered food, and more presents than I have ever seen in one place. The child was one. My son is also getting older and is starting to ask "Why does ________ have this and I don't?"

    We are big fans of the home birthday party. We do all of ours at home and the kids have a great time and it is overall less stress for everyone. Paul's 4th birthday party last December was a Construction theme. I set up different stations and "zones" in the yard and I think it was the best one yet.

    This is just reason number 568349576 that I heart you. BEST OF LUCK and Happy Birthday Bug!!!!

  15. I remember that happening. And sometimes, when they got older, we did the miniature golf thing. Seems when teenagers, we did a couple of paintball outings. My husband went. Made it easy for me.

    But the majority of their parties were at home. In the backyard. Different centers set up - like slipnslide, throwing sponges at the older brother, spin art. The pinata. Cake and ice cream. I think a couple times we had sleepovers in a tent in the backyard. My husband made a small fire for roasting marshmallows.

    Probably more work for us than hiring out a place, but I think it was different and fun for the kids. I hope, anyway.

  16. I don't have kids, but I've noticed this with my nephews. It has gotten completely out of control. Good for you for not giving in to outside pressure!

    Happy Birthday Bug!

  17. I've noticed a sort of backlash against big parties. My oldest 2 girls (now 12 and 10) and all their friends actually PREFER smaller parties at home. They seem to be tired of being entertained, and just want to play with each other.

  18. My nephew is 4 and every one of his birthday parties has been out somewhere. Not necessarily huge and expensive, but they certainly haven't been at home.

    I think it's a symptom. Creativity and imagination are suffering these days. It seems like modern toys only serve one purpose, clothes come in sets, and children's birthday parties have to be planned by someone who does it for a living.

    Some of my favorite memories from childhood involved scrounging for a makeshift bandanna to cover eyes for Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or playing baseball in the street with a cut off broom handle instead of a bat.