Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Hate Kid Birthday Parties

How many of you did I just offend with that title?  There's probably even some of my readers who have invited us to their children's birthday parties.

It's OK.  I get it.  There's a lot of pressure to put them on.

William is 4 1/2 and has begun to be invited to many birthday parties.  I cringe whenever I get the tell tale little envelope with the SpongeBob sticker over the flap.  Here's why I think they suck:

1.  Kids are the center of their own universe.  My kids LOVE getting on the phone and calling a relative on their birthday and singing to them.  They love to help blow out candles and eat birthday cake.  Sometimes they can even sit back patiently and watch someone else open up presents.  Sometimes.  But get them into a Chuck E Cheese or a bouncy castle or some other over-stimulated place and they've long forgotten the whole reason they are there in the first place.  They don't care that it's your kid's birthday.  Which leads me to my next point:

2.  They're impersonal.  Your kid is turning six this year?!  Guess what?  So is every other kid in their kindergarten class.  No one except the members of your own family thinks this is very special.

3.  They feed the clutter culture.  I really don't want to be spending $10-$30 on a gift for your kids.  Especially if our relationship is such that I wouldn't already be buying a gift if there were no party.  I hardly spend that on my own kids and now I have pressure to find the perfect gift for a kid I barely know.  I don't like hunting through Target aisles wondering what toys or games your family might already have or what sort of thing your kid is in to.

And then there's the party favors.  What a waste!  How many party favors do you think haven't made it into the trash after a week?

4.  They're expensive.  For both the party-goer (see #3) and the party-thrower.  Just imagine if you took all the money it cost to host a birthday party and did something really intimate with your child.  Take them out for a fancy dinner.  Go to a baseball game.  See a play at a children's theater.  Go to an amusement park.  All these options are much more special and much more memorable.

5.  They are time consuming.  Almost all birthday parties are held in the evening or on the weekends.  My husband works long hours so when he's here, it's family time.  I don't really want to use that precious time to trek my kid to a birthday party for a few hours and then either wait there until it ends or have to trek back to pick him up.  It's not my idea of time well spent.  I won't go out of my way to avoid your party but I also won't go out of my way to attend it.

I don't hate birthday celebrations for kids.  It's actually quite the opposite.  I think birthday parties have done a disservice to birthdays in general.  They're so cookie-cutter it drives me crazy.

When one of my kids has a birthday I can't believe how much they've grown, matured, changed.  It's all so amazing to me because I'm the one who held them when they weighed just a few pounds.  I want to celebrate that.  I want them to feel as special as I think they are.

I know that I had a few birthday parties when I was younger but I honestly only know this because I have proof in photographs.  I don't really remember them.

I do remember one year, I think I was turning sixteen, when my mom let me have a sleepover with a few of my best friends on a school night!  Our high school hockey team had made it to State and we were all going to watch the game on TV.  It was memorable because we all got to do something out of the ordinary together.  And probably also because I was older and the girls that were invited are still some of my best friends today.

I don't know if I'll ever throw a traditional birthday party for my kids.  I don't know yet if this decision will anger my kids.  So far I haven't heard any complaints.  At a recent party for his cousin at Chuck E Cheese William exclaimed, "Mom, I want to come here for MY birthday!"  And I told him we could.  With just Daddy and Lucy and me.  And he thought that would be great.

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