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Party People in the House

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I’m lucky; two out of my three kids still don’t really care about having a birthday party with their friends. Get them a bouquet of mylar balloons, let them lick the icing off the tops of a few cupcakes, and they’re set for another year. Presents are even optional at this point.

Unfortunately, the simple approach won’t suffice for my oldest. She’s got to keep up with the Joneses – all of her friends who’ve had slumber parties and bowling excursions.

To be honest, I’m putting the pressure on myself not to skimp on the festivities. She’s attended some nice, but not over the top, parties and I want to reciprocate. It’s not a matter of outdoing anyone, but merely returning the favor.

While she’s thrilled to spend the night at friends’ houses – remember, this is the child who flew alone to Washington DC when she was barely six – I realize that many of her friends aren’t yet prepared to do the same, at least not without a tearful 2 a.m. call to their parents, imploring to be picked up. So it seems that a slumber party will have to wait.

Likewise, we’re both tired of the mass outings to hosted parties where all you have to do is show up, but you pay an arm and a leg for the convenience. Not worth it, especially when the assumption is that the whole class will be invited, which can get uber-pricey.

So we’ll do something at our house for a couple hours. I’ve got a few ideas – some traditional, some not so traditional – that I’m prepared to execute. I’ll run them past the birthday girl and see what strikes her fancy. Maybe her party won’t be the first grade event of the year, but she and her guests will enjoy it. Hopefully so will I.

What is your attitude about children’s birthday parties? The more over-the-top the better or do you like to keep things simple?

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  • comment avatar Momma, The Casual Perfectionist February 25, 2009

    As a new mom, newly on the ‘kid party scene’ I was *shocked* at how elaborate parties have become! My daughter (who is only 3) has already been invited to parties where the gift bags the guests received have been unbelievably generous, and the event itself awe-inspiring.

    Is it just me, or when we were kids, were we not happy with a balloon and a piece of cake!? Party-goers get gifts now, too?? When did this happen??

    When it was her turn for a party, I felt torn between wanting to do something simple that she and her friends would enjoy vs. providing a full-blown event.

    Because she was just turning Three, I had a more modest event. But, it was a TON of fun, and the kids had a blast.

    I think it’s possible to have a good time and not spend a bunch of money, but that being said, I can see where this will be more and more challenging as the years go by.

    Good luck!!

  • comment avatar Amber February 25, 2009

    For my neighbor’s daughter’s 3rd birthday, she hired a professional company to throw it for her. I vowed then and there to not get sucked into the whole party business. Sure, I want my children to have great parties. But fun does not have to = expensive. There are so many great resources on the Internet re: how to throw great parties without breaking the bank.

  • comment avatar Janet February 25, 2009

    My kids (4 and 3) have been planning their birthday parties since last year, always telling the other that they are or are not invited with balloons. We have gone to the parties at parks, Gymboree, a jumping castle place, but not really had one of our own. Usually, I invite a few family friends over and that’s it. Cake, balloons, presents, done. One year for my older one’s birthday, their grandparents invited them to Hawaii (I had to go) which was fun. This year is probably friends, cake, ice cream, balloons, and done. Easy and fun.

  • comment avatar Lori in Denver February 25, 2009

    I think I do my kids a favor by low-keying it. I want their memories to be about the people and relationships rather than the stuff and accouterments.

    I dislike receiving those gift bags as much as I would giving them. Stuff, stuff — can’t keep up with all the stuff!

  • comment avatar Jenna Hallock February 25, 2009

    This is a really tough topic! I feel like I’ve been using this expression too often lately, but it continues to seem appropriate: we’re raising entitled kids.
    I think this is SO not about what everyone else is doing, but what we are setting our kids up to be like when they are sixteen (I’m sure you’ve at least heard of that show on MTV called “My Super Sweet Sixteen” – totally over the top, but not out of the realm of possibility in south Denver).
    What do you want your kids to expect when they are 8 or 12 or 16 years old? If we give them big and expensive they are going to expect elaborate parties and fiscal irresponsiblity all the time!
    I always say, I think my kids will be able to appreciate when they are older that I did not do big, elaborate, expensive things when they realize they have a 529 savings plan that will more than cover the cost of college. 🙂

  • comment avatar Jenna Hallock February 25, 2009

    Well who knows where in cyberspace my first comment went… here’s the abbreviated version.

    We are raising entitled kids. I have tried to fight against this and my 6 year old still thinks she should have just about anything her little eyes see that she decides she wants.

    This totally applies to birthday parties. If you do the bounce house or the zoo for the 4th birthday, how will you ever top that? But yet you’ll have to… somehow.

    I try to think ahead to how I want my kids to be when they are 12 or 17 years old. How am I treating them now that will detrimental to them when they are older?

    And if I have the money I would have spent on elaborate parties in a 529 savings plan instead, I think they’ll totally understand by the time their 23 years old for sure.

  • comment avatar Jess February 25, 2009

    For my son’s first, we decided to take off to the mountains with family and spend it there. This next year, we’ll probably not do much more than a bbq in the backyard. In fact, that’s probably all we’ll do for his birthday from now until he gets old enough to demand more. Then we’ll discuss a getting him a job.

    I’m not a fan of the gift bags, either. It’s always more stuff than anyone has room for or that anyone wants. One can only have so many mini-ball mazes in that toy box your kids forget about in the corner.

  • comment avatar Rhonda February 26, 2009

    We usually keep things family-oriented for birthdays but we do allow a bigger party for “landmark” birthdays (like turning 13 and 16). Today is my son’s 16th birthday party and we are having friends out for a bowling party. I’m sure your daughter will enjoy whatever you put together!

  • comment avatar Kagey February 27, 2009

    My son’s 5th in a couple weeks will be the first we do more than just cake & play time at our house. We’re going to the local rec center, where we can have fun in the gymnastics room, then have pizza & cake.
    I’m certainly not going to make this an every-year thing, but I’m looking forward to no cleaning before or after.
    As for gift bags, I have no idea where this tradition came from, but it has gone too far! And don’t you end up pitching half the stuff that comes in them anyway?

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