Let me start by saying that I know a lot of you have just finished first birthday parties or are preparing for first birthday parties – those do not count in this rant. First birthdays are your excuse to do whatever you want to do – no matter how absurd it may be. 🙂
We went to two second birthday parties this weekend. Both different in many ways, similar in some. Here is a brief recap:
Party 1 was for a kid at daycare with Gus. It was at the daycare provider’s house (kid mom and provider are best friends) and was a barbecue with water balloons, a pool, and tons of outside fun. There were maybe 15-20 kids there – maybe 40 to 50 people total. It was fine – a bit hard to socialize but Gus had fun. I would say the highlight for us was when there was a pinata and all the kids went to hit it and Gus went to the table where they had been sitting and ate all their leftover food. That’s my boy! It was an interesting crowd of people. They served miller lite and one dad kept telling kids to “man up”.
Now both parties were totally fine but they were a bit odd to me. Kid 1 clung to his mom the entire time, super overwhelmed by everything there. Kid 2 had fun but never rode the ponies. I’m not sure what mom spent on party one but I know what mom spent on party t2 and, in her words, it wasn’t bad because it was under $500.
So this brings me to my point: When did kids start getting elaborate birthday parties? Why are we doing this? I am not spending hundreds of dollars on my kid’s birthday party and luckily now he is 2 so doesn’t have any idea that that’s the going rate. Yesterday was a day with ponies and while we talked about the birthday he doesn’t fully understand that. But what happens when he does? Most kids in our friend group are a bit older than Gus so he will forever live in a world of indulgent birthday parties followed by his lackluster celebration.
For Gus’ birthday we plan to announce to friends the week before that we will be at a park from __ to __ if anyone wants to come play. I’ll probably bring cupcakes to the park. There will be no circle gathered around him while he opens gifts – I hope there will be no gifts. After the park we will invite a few families back to our house to make pizza with us. That’s it. That will be his birthday. Because honestly – that’s what he wants. To play with his friends. I don’t want him to worry about being anything other than himself. Let’s get real, I don’t want to worry about him being anything other than himself.
The other part of this is that I think birthday celebrations are for parents, too. Cleaning my house for days before hand, or staying up until midnight preparing things, is not my idea of a celebration for me. I want to sit on a blanket in the sun and watch my kid run around. I don’t want to “host”, I want everyone to just be free to do whatever. I saw my friend yesterday drinking champagne after the cake was served – her duties were over. I don’t want duties to start.
I’m really big on “to each their own” on this one. It may not sound like it here – this is not a judgement of how other people do things though. For some folks that is the experience they want and need. I am just not one of them. The problem lies when we, our communities, start these trends. When is Gus going to start feeling slighted because he gets less? I worry about that but also am not willing to up my game in order to make him feel better. His birthday is a celebration for our family and we’ll celebrate in a way that makes all of us happy. Sure, renting the kid gymnastic place (we’ve been to that party) or ponies or bounce houses would make Gus happy but he is also thrilled to ride bikes to the park on sunny days and eat fruit and chase a ball. To me that’s what childhood is about and aren’t these parties suppose to be a celebration of just that?