A couple of months ago, I wrote a blistering expose on the competition in my neighborhood to have the best and biggest playset. Since then, I have continued my deep cover in order to expose the secrets of life in suburbia. I have recently uncovered a trend that is so insidious, so frightening, that I cannot in good conscience keep it to myself. While it is a topic that is hardly new, it is something that is spiraling out of control because of parents' needs to outdo one another. This horrible trend is causing dissention, resentment and outright hostility among people who claim to be friends. I present The Birthday Party.
I am all about a party. There is nothing more fun than good food, good drinks, good friends and a lot of wonderful conversation and laughter. The same holds true for a kid's birthday party. We have kept Baby Girl's parties quite low key. We had a blizzard for her first birthday so it was the two of us watching her look at a cupcake with fear/curiosity/hunger. On her second birthday we went all out for an Elmo cake that my friend made and she had her two little friends over. The adults ate steak and drank wine and beer. The girls ate hotdogs and fought over toys. Baby Girl's party on Sunday was much the same. She had one friend and her cousin over. The adults ate appetizers and drank beer and wine. The kids ate chicken nuggets and a Dora Cupcake Birthday Cake.
I was introduced to the birthday party circuit while we were still in New Jersey. It is customary in New Jersey for the first birthday to be a huge blow-out in a rented hall, complete with 100+ people and caterers. Maybe there is a petting zoo or a bounce house. Maybe there's a band. There is DEFINITELY a mountain of presents and a very overwhelmed and cranky birthday child. We attended a couple parties like that and were amazed at the size of the celebration. Perhaps we were amazed that our friends actually HAD 100+ people to invite. Perhaps we couldn't believe the expense. Who knows?
Once Baby Girl got older, we started getting invited to parties at a place near our house called Boro Kid Zone. It was fantastic! The children got to jump around and play in these designated zones for set periods of time. And then they were served pizza and/or birthday cake. After eating, they were given a goodie bag and we were on our merry way. All this in 90 minutes. SWEET! It was great. I found out that parties ran about $150 or so. I thought that was pretty steep, but I thought it would be good if a parent didn't buy any other presents.
And now we are here in Ohio. Sure, there are the parties at the nearby Pump it Up or Build-A-Bear. But here, it is all about exceeding kids' expectations and having a bigger/better party than the year before. And a bigger/better party than the neighbor kids. And, you obviously love your child more because you just had the coolest party ever. There are princess parties, Dora parties and Nascar parties. For the "tweens" we have the "Makeover Parties" where there are places here in the area that will organize makeup parties for girls. Recently, there was a Jungle party in the neighborhood where the children participated in a jungle scavenger hunt. I think the prize was a real live monkey. Not sure who won.
My husband came home tonight and told me about the plans one of his co-workers had for his daughter's birthday party next week. They are planning to build a life-sized Candyland game board in their basement, and the parents of the children are going to play the characters in the game.
Are you kidding me?
I am trying to imagine how the parents are going to react when they get to the party. Will the Birthday Girl's father get to be King Kandy? Will the mothers start a cat fight to get the coveted roles of Lolly and Princess Frostine? The losers of that fight will have to be Mama Gingertree and Gramma Nutt. The parents who show up late will live to regret it as they will be stuck playing Jolly and Gloppy. I'm not sure I could imagine a less enjoyable afternoon for the parents.
Am I the only parent who is perfectly happy having a few kids over and letting them run wild through the house and eat cake? I mean, if I start with the unique parties now, it will never end. My girls will just expect more and more every year. And I don't want that. I'm still trying to get over the fact that I don't get any presents for my kids' birthdays. I mean, I squeezed them out for God sakes! Isn't that worth a nice bracelet?
I know that eventually I will have to expand on our birthday parties as I am assuming (and hoping) that my daughters will have more than one friend each. That said, I think the craziest I am willing to go is a Boro Kidzone-type of party. I think it is worth the $150 to NOT have to clean my house, fix food, and have parents looking at my house and questioning my decorating choices. What about you? How far are you willing to go to make your birthday kid happy? How much are you willing to do/spend?