Each to Their Own – My Response to the ‘Birthday Party Guidelines’ Blog Post that Went Viral.
Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am party mad. I enjoy throwing kids birthday parties. For me party planning is a passion that I enjoy cultivating. Why? Simply because it’s so much fun. Celebrations are big in our family. I look forward to those dates of celebration each year and in our family we use any excuse for a celebration. I’ve been changing nappies for eight long years now, and when my delightful yet slightly obstinate daughter finally nails toilet training, we are going to have a ‘No More Nappies’ Party.
But I’m also aware that mothers who throw themselves head first into birthday party planning, receive a fair amount of flak from other parents, both spoken and unspoken. I’ve been told that my parties are ‘over the top’ and I’ve heard many folk express their concern that children’s birthday parties are ‘out of control today’. I’ve never spent lots of money on my kids birthdays, preferring to opt for ‘retro’ styled parties at home. Yet I know that it is not uncommon in some circles for parents to spend literally thousands on their children’s birthday parties, but I don’t move in those circles! I have however, spent lots of time on my ‘party extravaganza’s’ as my mother refers to them. Many an evening has been spent decorating vintage lace crowns, laminating invitations, or paper mache-ing a Humpty Dumpty pinata for my two year old’s birthday. This particular pinata resulted in someone from the States emailing and asking me to add a credit to her company on my pinata pinterest pin, otherwise I might face legal action! Honestly I had no idea that I had done anything wrong, I mean, I had just copied a design I saw on Pinterest. Isn’t that what Pinterest is for?
Sometimes I have felt like I ought to tone my parties down, or keep them low key. I look back at some of the cakes I have made over the years and okay, I will agree that some of them were a little too large. I could have started a diabetes epidemic with each one of them! Really I don’t know what I was thinking, but when you are in the sleep deprived stage with young children, perhaps one is not always thinking straight. The pink castle I made for my daughter’s first birthday was ridiculously large. A castle half the size would have been fine. Hind sight is a wonderful thing. And the heart shaped pizzas that I made for my first child’s first birthday? No one noticed them, least of all my son, but I enjoyed making them and that is the main thing. There is a mixture of fun and stress involved in planning a birthday party, and some of the parties I have organized over the years have nearly killed me. Crazy I know. For my son’s soccer party I remember making eight layer jellies. They took hours to make and the kids didn’t really eat them! After my daughter’s ‘Wearable Arts’ themed party I recall it took me about a week to recover. I exaggerate, but you get the idea.
Other common criticisms of children’s birthday parties today include trends such as loot bags, inviting the entire class to a party and the potential sense of entitlement that having birthday parties may create. This week I read a blog post about children’s birthday parties that went viral. You can read it here: http://not-your-average-mom.com/birthday-party-guidelines-all-parents-should-follow/. The author’s premise was that parents need not throw birthday parties at all especially when children are under four, as they will not remember them. There is some truth to this. There is nothing wrong with a small low key celebration. Nor is there anything wrong with a store bought cake, or a party at ‘Chuck E Cheese’. We don’t have ‘Chuck E Cheese’ in New Zealand, but the name conjures up images of a vomiting Chucky figure from Child’s Play! (a google search confirms that it’s a little like Pizza Hut).
My response is simply this. Let others be their authentic selves. Other people doing things well doesn’t diminish what you do well. If birthday parties and Pinterest are your thing, then party and pin on to the glory of God. If someone wants to spend hours decorating their house with Elmo decorations and making intricate themed food (including getting red dyed coconut all over their kitchen as I did when I tried to make Elmo cupcakes), then why not? Perhaps these Pinterest party mothers don’t see parties as a competition or ‘mompetition’. They are not trying to prove something, impress guests or their friends on facebook, and nor are they trying to make others feel inadequate. We can never judge the motives of others. Perhaps they are doing it simply because of the pleasure that it brings them.
But if birthday parties are not your thing or there is limited time or finances, know that whatever you do. the kids will still enjoy it. It doesn’t take much to entertain small kids. Meeting at a park with a cake, ice-cream cones, bubbles and balloons is a celebration the kids are sure to love and one that will create lasting memories. It’s about blessing our child and not impressing others. It doesn’t have to be overly stressful. We need not feel pressured to have a party every year, or obliged to have an elaborate party. Don’t plan throw a big birthday party for your child? Good for you. Plan a simple party for your child? Good on you. Throw an elaborate birthday party for your child? Good on you too.
What is your take on children’s birthday parties?