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Children / Consumer / Humor / Motherhood

The Real on Reality TV and How Much is Too Much for a Child’s Birthday Party?

Invitations, ice cream, cake, punch, games, prizes, goodie bags, decorations…chocolate fountain, swimming pool, submarine, iPhone…hey, you don’t turn 8 every day, right?

Our family was recently in contact with a television channel that produces a pretty wild children’s birthday party show. Our family fit the demographics they were looking for, so we corresponded with them about participating. The idea of the show is that the child gets a ginormous birthday party and the parents happily foot the bill. The reality of this “reality” TV…the parents don’t drop a dime on that crazy bash…the station picks it up – every last penny. Which in turn, leads the family to somewhat take advantage of that small detail and go absolutely crazy with their party expenses.

Exemplifying this type of lack in moral is obviously not what we wanted to do, particularly for innocent eyes looking to reality television as a guide to what a “normal” American birthday party might look like. So, we proposed this: we participate in the show but keep the budget minimal – craziness unlimited. And that’s exactly how we roll come birthday celebration time…it gets nutty, but we don’t have to install a swimming pool in the back yard to draw friends and neighbors in for a splashing good time!

The station seemed a bit aloof at our plausible suggestions and rather pushy with their frivolous ideas. So, come Skype interview time, we caught a glimpse of what may be brewing on their end. A storyline prewritten for us and not so flattering, hey, I get the need for good TV…BUT stick around for a while – we’re not so boring if you dig a bit. I’m sure they could pull some realreality TV drama if need be – wouldn’t that be nice?

Some interview eyebrow raisers included: talking to each of us alone, asking leading questions, telling us how to answer (seriously?), insisting on animation – bratty, I want it NOW style – asking us to repeat the question with our answer (“I think my son deserves a huuuuge birthday party because…”), inquiring about our careers and then asking me to make a statement about how I’m mostly “just” a stay at home mom…followed by a question for my son: Who will pay for this party?

His answer, “Ummm, I guess my mom will pay for the party.” ~ My Proud Mommy Moment

~ I probably don’t have to tell you that we were NOT selected to do the show. ~

The experience was an interesting glimpse into the truth behind television. I mean, we all know TV world is a far fetch from reality, but I guess it was my hope that when stations stir debates (especially those involving children and parenting) they, at the very least, seek credible sources of neglect – or lack in judgment – and exploit those cases…particularly this channel, boasting of “learning.”

So, this year, we’ll be hosting a fairly normal eight-year-old birthday party complete with cake, ice cream, party hats and the like. Not so much the swimming pool, submarine or iPhone – as much as he wants one, he’ll more likely receive games, toys and the dreaded…clothing.

I like to think our brush with childhood birthday party fame was good for all of us. My hope is that we all learned a little something about the characters we see on TV and can be glad to have avoided the possibility of promoting mindless consumerism in our country. I have to admit though; it sure would have been fun to see our friends and family partying down on national television, ha!

Author: Jaime

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  1. So wait, I’m confused. Did you go ahead with it? The reference to the normal 8 year old party threw me off. I saw some of the Real Housewives at the LA airport and got a kick out of watching just how scripted reality TV really is.

    I recently got a pitch from a television show wanting us to find people who throw over-the-top 16th birthday parties. Basically, they wanted drama and spoiled, entitled kids. I didn’t respond. 😉

  2. Good for you for not agreeing to propagate the silliness. Your integrity is strong and your kids are lucky to have you.

    I’d much rather watch a show about fun parents and kids having amazing, creative, memorable parties on a shoestring budget. I picture tons of adorable handmade things, maybe asking friends and family to help with their skills, etc. Give the family a small budget and 24 hours to pull together a birthday party. That might be fun. Call it Surprise Party.

    Watching children being encouraged to be bratty, excess flashed around, spineless parents? No thanks. How horrible to try to normalize that behavior and those expectations.

  3. I agree with Gretchen – good for you for not bowing to the “god” of media and more-is-better!

    “Reality” television is becoming increasingly disturbing… the ideas, morals, and lifestyles that are being portrayed as “real” are certainly not for probably 90% of Americans (let’s not even talk about the rest of the world!).

    Our kids are going to remember the love we give them, not the gifts that will be broken or lost very shortly.

  4. Didn’t mean to throw you off, Amber, with my sarcasm 🙂 We love to celebrate birthdays in our family, but why an eight-year-old might need a $30,000 birthday party is beyond me. He’s a great kid, but to waste that cash on frivolousness for television entertainment – not ok.

    We actually weren’t quite sure at first what the program was about – we have very basic cable and don’t watch much, lol. So, after Googling some episodes and asking around, we were pretty certain we didn’t fit the criteria! They agreed, ha.

  5. Love the inside peek at “reality” TV, Jamie. And am so glad you didn’t join in the fray of glamorizing bad parenting!

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