Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Birthday Parties

If I could be in charge, I would do away with the big birthday party. When I was a child, I was given one birthday party. In our family, most of us had it when we turned 8, but for some reason (and I really don't know why), my parents threw my party for my 7th birthday. It was a Cinderella party and I invited 7 of my friends. We played pin the shoe on Cinderella, decorated paper ballgown skirts (made out of butcher paper), danced around in those, and ate a cake that was the fancy gown of a Barbie doll, which I also got for a birthday present. Cabbage Patch kids were the popular toy that year, but they were expensive and hard to come by, so my mom made me a "Blossom Baby", a handmade doll that looked like a Cabbage Patch kid. That was back in the day when it was cheaper to sew and make new toys than to buy them. It was a great birthday. In later years, they still kept to that same rule, but when I turned 14, I asked for another party. I was granted my wish as long as I organized everything and only invited about 4-5 friends. We went ice skating and came back to the house for cake and ice cream. I had another party for myself when I turned 21, but nobody came because of the snowstorm that hit that day. That is the extent of my birthday party career (and for the first time, I realize that I had one every 7 years!).

Today we are expected to throw a huge shin-dig for every single child on every single birthday. The party has to have a theme and cake that matches the theme, all sorts of games. Many parents go all out and rent one of those bouncy things, or they treat the party gang to Chuck E. Cheese or some other place. There is usually pizza and everyone brings lots of presents.

I personally enjoyed having small, intimate family birthdays when I was a kid. Those years I had parties, those were fun, but most of my birthday memories consist of a fun cake (my mom always did fun cakes), blowing out the candles after singing around the table, and presents in Dad's chair. When I was 18, my parents treated me to lunch during the school day, not something they ordinarily did.

I have thrown 2 birthday parties so far with my four children. One was when my oldest turned 3 and then again when he turned 6. That year he turned 3, we had recently moved and I wanted to meet some people in the ward, so I invited anyone who had a boy in the nursery with my son, as well as some other close friends who had children that age. When he turned 4, he went with his Dad to a game place, like Dave and Buster's, but only because Dad had free passes through his work for that very night. When he turned 5, we had family in town, so it was a big affair even though we didn't have an actual party. He was in kindergarten when he turned 6, the first time that he actually had friends to invite, so when he asked for a Star Wars party a few weeks before his birthday, I said yes. It was a fun party, but cost a lot more than we really had to spend, plus was a lot of work. I decided at that time that I didn't want to do a party for every child every year. So this year, when he asked for a party, I told him no. We told him that he could plan games and activities but that it would only be our family for the birthday. He did plan games and activities, but two days before the birthday, starting throwing tantrums because he wasn't having a big party with friends.

So the question is, am I going to face this every year with every child? Should I say that we will have parties for only the big birthdays--8, 12, 16? And the other years it will be just family? Then, if we tell them now that is the plan, perhaps they won't be expecting some big party on the other years and therefore won't throw the tantrums?

What do you do to celebrate your child's birthday?


Devin & Ruthann said...

I say out with the huge parties too! I think it is great to make your kid feel really special on his or her day, but that doesn't mean they should get a huge party. It's too expensive and too much work!

We did a big 1st b-day for Jaxon, but that's the only one we've done. My aunt invites the whole family over for all of her kids birthdays and feeds us (usually pizza and cake) and expects us to bring gifts! I think it's too much!

A small party with family should make the kid happy and they shouldn't expect a lot of gifts!

Becky said...

We have a "mini" party at 3 and then only parties for 5, 8, and 12. Big parties are work so even on their special years we don't do a ton. They just get to have kids over with a few games and food. On a non party year we try to do something special like going out for a movie as a family or like last year, Brendon went with just his dad.

ISBAM said...

My parents did a "party" every other year. We could invite our friends and we usually did Hardees 'cuz it was cheap and easy for mom. On the years we didn't do a party, we got to invite one friend to do something fun. It depends on your situation, and your personal feelings. I don't mind doing a big party. My husband doesn't mind helping, but he doesn't enjoy it that much either. We always do a family party, but this was the first year we did a big friend party as well. I'm thinking we'll be doing it just on the big birthdays, like 6, 8 and 12. And I think the tantrums won't happen as bad when they know that this is how our family does things.

swedemom said...

I think it really depends on your family background and location. I had a party every year. My mom didn't make a big deal out of it. I could invite all my friends--no limits. She didn't plan games or anything, just baked cupcakes. We played, ate cake and then I opened presents. Fun. My husband grew up differently. They had a party every other year. On the off-years, they would get to invite someone special to dinner.

I like to throw parties, my husband doesn't.

Last year was super stressful for me though because we had three birthdays within a few weeks and were going through a super difficult time. I promised my kids a party in the fall. Which we did, but I decided that this year we wouldn't have big parties for any of the kids. We'll have ONE party this summer for all the kids when they're cousins are around and that's it. Then when they have their actual birthdays, we'll have a nice dinner with cake. The kid gets to choose the dinner.

swedemom said...

I was blown away by the over-the-top birthday parties in New York when we moved here. The pressure for big venues, present costs has been intense. We've kind of rebelled against it.


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