Momversation: Do You Feel Birthday Party Pressure?

It’s very easy to bemoan the excess of a kid’s birthday party. Does that make sense to spend money on balloons, pony rides, catered food? And I say, Why not?  If I had endless money this year I think I would be fine with treating Vivien’s 4th like she was the child of 1930s movie star. You know why?

1) It helps the economy. The balloon company is a small business that is struggling this year, and the guy wrangling the ponies probably can’t afford health care. Helping small businesses stay in business is charitable. And will do more for the economy that that waste o’ money TARP and all the other money given to banks who don’t pass on the largess to their clients who need a small business loan or their mortgages reduced (argh, don’t get me started).

2) It’s fun.

Now, the only downside I can see to this (if money were no object) is the kid could become a big jaded, spoiled brat, and it puts a lot of pressure on mom to top herself every year.

When I was little there was a cool kiddie amusement park in LA (long gone, sadly and replaced by a disgusting mall that has the architectural integrity of a lump of poo). At Vivien’s age, I had my whole class there in a castle setting. We had jelly beans and cake and orange drink (who knows what it was). Then my mom gave us a long line of tickets and we were off. The tilt-a-whirl was my fave.

After that place closed down, my birthday parties never seemed as fun again. I think it’s great to have a wild, fun special day once a year.

In this Momversation, I ask the moms from our newer perch, not as little kids, but as moms, do they feel pressure around kid parties?  I got a bit weepy (kind of like Hillary in New Hampshire, it might not seem weepy to some). I didn’t mean to, but my issue is size. We have downsized this year… forced to by the people who stole from us. I have set aside the money for Viv’s party a long time ago, but a little perplexed at how I can give her what she wants in our spatially challenged new environs.

To take some stand like “Hey, let’s go give this money to kids who have less, and you can eat this small cake with me” would be insincere. Not that gearing a party toward charity isn’t noble or something I would like to do in the future. But it has more to do with not wanting her to feel like she is a victim of crime more than she already has been forced to. Of course she doesn’t know that now, but I do.

And that’s the point.

11 thoughts on “Momversation: Do You Feel Birthday Party Pressure?

  1. One of the things I do to relieve some of the birthday-bash pressure is to budget and plan ahead of time. My 12 year old had the last birthday party. I got gift baggies complete with candy and small prizes one payday and then the next payday was the food and the bouncie rental. We don’t do the clowns or ponies. Usually sleepovers with scavenger hunts or barbecues with music of their choosing. It doesn’t have to be extravagant to be fun. I look at the Sweet 16 parties on MTV and those kids don’t even appreciate what they are given due to the fact they are given so much.
    Guess I had a lot to say on this subject!! hahahaha
    Great topic as always,
    dawn

  2. I’m so sad parents think they need to have big parties to express love and attention to their kids. I’ve been very clear that my love is not in the presents or the parties it’s in the time and effort when we are together sharing thoughts, dinners, and feelings.

    My daughter and our seven grandchildren all know how much I love them as well as what is important and that is what we give to each other not parties. Once in awhile we will have celebrations with special friends however, we never focus on keeping up with the Jones..it’s keeping together as family this was a great post…

    Dorothy from grammology
    grammology.com

  3. Daphne – I really hope you aren’t sick of me. The crazy 20-something teacher who doesn’t have kids but reads mommy blogs and compares everything to her nanny days. In a year or two I’ll have an infant and I won’t have time to read momversations and comment, so I’m just being proactive. ( : That and I think you kick serious ass.

    I’m actually amazed that I can look back on every single affluent family I worked for and tell you that every single one had a minimalist approach to kids parties. I’m with Rebecca – kids are usually happy with a good old-fashioned cake, pinata, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey type deal. Anna’s (first charge, like my kid sister) big thrill was a HUGE sleepover. To her, huge meant like 10 girls. It wasn’t expensive, just a tad stressful for her dad and me. She wouldn’t have been happy with a mini-wedding ordeal because the wanted the damn sleepover so badly. The screaming, giggling, up-all-night girlies was a small price to pay for something that made her soooo stinkin’ happy.

    Kids just love to see their friends, get presents from them, and live it up. One of the cutest parties I ever saw was a dress-up theme where the kids came to a tea party at a fancy-ish restaurant in their fancy-ish little duds. The restaurant agreed to set up a room for the kids and serve pink lemonade and cookies in mini tea sets. Those 4 year olds thought they had been invited to high tea at the Ritz by the friggin queen. It was precious. And NOT over-the-top by any means.

    I feel your pain over the money sitch, I really do. I’ve never had my fortune stolen, never had one to begin with. But for reasons more intricate and personal to share in a comment, I get it. I’ve had someone steal from me – my step-mother. I get teary thinking about the shitty situations she has created and how – trying to be a noble, dedicated husband – my dad always backs her. Injustice is injustice, having what is rightly taken from you is never easy to accept or deal with. Vivien has you – a strong woman – for a mom to defend her and look out for her. That’s worth more than silver or gold.

    Great parties are made by creative parents who know how to KISMIF – Keep It Simple, Make It Fun. People who spend absurd amounts of cash on a kiddie party try to compensate for their lack of ideas/resources by trying to intimidate the shit out of their guests. IMO, that’s just lame.

  4. I can’t believe this myself…but since my husband was laid off in November, I had to have our 7 yr old son’s birthday party at home, old fashioned olden days style.

    Guess what? It was THE best birthday party he says he ever had. We’ve always spent at least $250 on each party, rented a place, ordered special cake, balloons, party favors, etc. But this year, we had it at home and played musical chairs, hide n seek, and Dance Party.

    He said it was his best party ever. Still can’t believe it.

  5. Daphne, I feel you . For my sons 4th birthday he wanted a skeleton party. Well we didn’t have the funds to throw a kid party so we just had our family over and I dug out all my halloweeen stuff got a skeleton cake at jewel and called it a day. I felt bad that he couldn’t have his big kid party with all his friends, but you know what he never felt that way about that day. He loved every thing we did for him and he felt special. He loved his cake and was the center of attention for the day. Its hard to step back and remember that Its not about your feelings. She will have a great party if you make it as cool you the cool mom can. Good Luck

  6. thanks for the ideas and support all. duh, musical chairs, forgot about that.
    Chris, not sick of you girl pleeeze. course not.

    I don’t think the princess and the bouncy will be too over the top… they have to go on the roof though.

    and yes, smart to do gift bags in advance . those cracked me last year. not doing bags at all.

  7. We did a Wall•E / disco party for H’s 4th, we used a friend’s restaurant that didn’t do lunch, planned a great disco playlist on the iPod, and I did splash out on renting some of those prom kind of disco lights. AND, the most important $10 of all, I bought a bubble machine at Target and it was The Hit. (We’ve since taken it to picnics and the beach, it’s an absolute magnet for the littles.) Granted, this is very specific to my child’s wants, the music and the Wall•E, but it seems that we created an atmosphere no one has in their house, and that made it kind of fun and weird and special. Gift bags of plastic crap, I admit it we did it. Cake from the grocery store, although that hurt my soul a bit.

    But yeah, the $10 or $12 bubble machine at Target, Daph.

  8. Both my kids have summer birthdays and both LOVE that they “GET” to have their party at home (unlike all those poor unfortunate kids whose parents have to rent the bouncy gym. (I have totally brainwashed them and I am OK with that.)

    We invite a handful of kids, they pick the theme. Olympics for the boy this year, losts of races and cheap gold medals and CD of sports music. $3 wiffle ball/bats to take home. The girl wanted mermaid so sprinkler, water balloons, bubble machine, pinata. Pizza and cake and we are DONE. $5 polly pockets to take home.

    It ain’t hard and it does not need to cost a fortune. My kids feel like they are the center of the universe on their day and that is all that matters. And yeah, the bubble machine rocks, any time of year.

  9. Thanks for bringing this up issue bc it was on my mind not long ago. We did a very small party for our son this year, especially compared to 2 years ago, when we had a really big shindig for him. Strangely, we pared down both because we need to be watching our pennies more closely, but also bc doing the big party just FELT inappropriate with times so hard. So many people I know are unemployed or fear losing their jobs that we just thought something small this year seemed the thing to do.

    Lesson I learned? The smaller party was a lot more fun for our son and for all the kids. The huge one had an element of chaos that this one didn’t.

  10. Thanks for bringing this up issue bc it was on my mind not long ago. We did a very small party for our son this year, especially compared to 2 years ago, when we had a really big shindig for him. Strangely, we pared down both because we need to be watching our pennies more closely, but also bc doing the big party just FELT inappropriate with times so hard. So many people I know are unemployed or fear losing their jobs that we just thought something small this year seemed the thing to do.

    Lesson I learned? The smaller party was a lot more fun for our son and for all the kids. The huge one had an element of chaos that this one didn’t.;…

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