Birthday Party Dilemma

When I was young, we had birthday parties at home. I have two sisters who are very close in age (we became instant family when our parents remarried) and we were allowed to invite maybe 5 or 6 friends. We often had slumber parties followed up by a pancake breakfast. There was no entertainment and no goodie bags. Just friends and simple fun.

Today's Birthday Party - A Three Ring Circus?
Today’s Birthday Party – A Three Ring Circus? ©2008 Christy Matte

I’m not sure what happened, but now the bar is higher. These same sisters (one in particular) have hosted parties at museums, bowling alleys, hotel swimming pools (with overnight stays), paint your own pottery shops, roller rinks and more. One year involved the rental of a jumping castle. Yeah. All we’re missing is pony rides. Maybe that’s next year…

Unfortunately, they’re not alone. My three year old has been invited to a Gymboree party, a bowling party, a jumping castle party and several playspace parties. Oh, and I admit it… we had his party at the [cheapest possible] playspace, largely so we didn’t have to host a gaggle of preschoolers and their families in our home at the end of October. And, don’t get me started on the goodie bags!

I’m not a particularly competitive person, but I’m not sure how to keep up. Party space rentals are well over $100 (many over $200) and that’s not including cake, requisite juice boxes, munchies or goodie bags. If I had known then what I know now, I would have planned to have a baby in the summer. LadyBug can have parties in the backyard, making use of our swingset and swimming pool. At the very least we can head to a local park or even a farm.

And what would happen if I just stopped doing goodie bags? Mainly they’re trinkety items that people throw away after a day or two (with the exception of the aforemention harmonica). Would my children become the birthday party outcasts in their preschool classes?

Is there someone out there with older kids who can convince me that my older sister is the exception and that we’ll eventually outgrow these extravagant celebrations? I’m hoping the numbers will be smaller when we’re not hosting entire families. We simply can’t fit all of these people in our house! I do have a little hope, though. When I asked my neice what she would do if she could do anything she wanted for her birthday, she said, “Oh, I’m allowed to choose whatever I want. This year I think I want to go bowling. Or maybe I’ll just have a party at home…” Ah, the luxury of it all.

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6 Responses to Birthday Party Dilemma

  1. Okay, being one of said sisters (though not the extreme culprit), I feel I need to redeem myself…
    We had been doing fairly large parties, though mostly back-yard bashes, but that all changed 2 years ago. I was discussing with my then-turning-7 daughter what kind of party she’d like that year…bowling, pottery, freakish cartoon place…when I suggested the possibility of just having a few friends over for cake & games. She looked at me like I had two heads and said “But, Mom, that’s not a party!” It was at that moment that I decided that from then on, that’s exactly what my kids would be getting…what I always had growing up.
    And the funny thing is…they love it!
    We still do “goody bags”, but those have been redeemed also. No more crappy plastic trinkets that parents dread and throw away as soon as the kids forget about them (like the next day). We go practical. For our Summer/Ice Cream theme party one year, we gave a coupon for a free cone at the local ice cream place tied to a pair of dollar-store flip-flops. For our fall-born daughter’s party last year we gave small pumpkins from a local farm.
    What really helped, though, was that the girls are now old enough to have a few friends over without having to host all the parents as well. That made a HUGE difference. Now that we have a new Little Brother, I haven’t figured out yet how to handle his birthdays…he may wait until he’s 6 to get one. Let him gripe to his therapist later.

  2. Hah. I totally forgot about this post when I sent you over here. Good thing I didn’t say anything really bad about you. =}

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