I’m currently in party planning mode. September is a big month for our family. My birthday, Mr T’s birthday and Ms J’s birthday all fall within 7 days of each other! This makes party planning a little more difficult. Mr T. and Ms J are probably going to have to share birthday parties at least until they are old enough to both have their own friends and their own ideas about how they would like to celebrate their birthdays.
Anyways, all this party planning has got me thinking about children’s birthday parties and how complicated they seem to have become. When did a toddlers birthday party go from being a simple backyard celebration to a big formal to do? When did we become so complicated? When did our tastes become so extravagant?
I remember, growing up, the majority of my birthday parties were held at home. All of my friends would show up dressed in their party dresses bearing armfuls of brightly wrapped presents. I would be spinning around the house like a wound up top with excitement. There were always balloons involved and sometimes streamers decorating the room. I would have a lovely birthday cake, sometimes homemade other times store-bought covered in candles ready for me to be blow out sitting at the kitchen table with my friends looking on. We would play games, maybe pin the tail on the donkey or other tradition party games. It was simple and wonderfully entertaining for me and all my friends. Games, balloons, food, presents and then the best part for my guests…the loot bags!!! Filled with wonderful little treasures that I’m sure they dove into the second they got in the car.
I can remember one, maybe two birthdays that were out of my home. One was at Burger King and I have the pictures of me blowing out candles on a chocolate cake with my Burger King crown sitting daintily on top of my head, to remind me. Because to be honest I don’t remember that birthday with any more fondness than any of my home birthday parties.
So tell me what happened? At playgroups other mummies would ask me, not how, but where we were celebrating my children’s birthdays and many look shocked when I say at home. Most birthday parties are now held in some location out of the home. Be it Chuck e cheese or at a local play centre where you basically spend hundreds of dollars to rent a room filled with toys. Children run around and play for a bit then come into a small room to sing happy birthday, eat some pizza and cake and then go right back to running around. Really pretty much what you can do at home for a lot less money.
A few years ago we went to a birthday party that didn’t give out loot bags at the end but gave out whole board games to each individual child!!! Were they nice? Yes of course but doesn’t it seem a bit much??? If you are doing this much for a three-year old’s birthday what’s going to happen when they are 5, 10, 15!!! Are the parties going to get more and more extravagant as the years go on? How can you start so big and then one year just decide let’s go small and simple?
Having said that, really there is nothing wrong with choosing to host your party at an outside location but when did that become the norm rather than the exception? Now it seems like parents are trying to find somewhere different every year to host their child’s party and the costs are rising. I looked into a few places to see get some details cost information and some of them are up in the 500$ range. For a two-hour birthday party for a 3-year-old???!!! That to me seems a little much to spent on a toddlers party.
Not all party places charge as much. In fact I considered one particular location in our area, a ball gym that Mr. T LOVES going to. We happened to go on a rainy day recently and were witness to a couple of children having their birthday parties there. I thought this really doesn’t seem too bad, the kids get to play, run off some steam then have pizza and cake, all for about 200$, pretty reasonable really. But then I realized something. It’s not just about the money, it’s also about the personalization. This year is going to be the first year that Mr. T and Ms. J share birthdays. It’s Ms. J’s first birthday do I really want her first birthday to be a rushed affair where the kids are just going to run wild, scarf back their food as fast as they can so that they can get back to playing and not really care that it’s a birthday party? Do I really want to keep looking at the time to ensure we are cleaned up and out of the room in two hours so that the next kid can come in to celebrate their special day? Or would I rather do something smaller, less hectic and a little more personal at home? Where when we are done with the fun Ms. J can head up to her own crib to nap off the excitement of the morning. Where when all the kids have gone we can invite our families over so that Mr. T and Ms. J can share their special day with people who love them?
I’ve chosen to go back to basics. I would like to celebrate their birthday at home. With a small group of children and later family. We will have a carnival themed party, again simple, some basic carnival themed games with prizes, balloons and streamers, a pinata, hot dogs, lemonade and cake and to top it all off…loot bags!!! This fits our family better. It’s not all about finances either, while I do think spending 50o$ or more on a toddlers birthday is a little much, it’s about much more than that to me. I dont’ want my children to think that in order to feel loved or have fun they must have this big exaggerated party. I want them to know that it’s not about what you get but about sharing this special day with the people you love. Yes I want them to have fun with their friends but I don’t want them to start out with an expectation of flamboyance. I just want to go back to basics. Simple and uncomplicated.
It’s also a lot of fun for me. I enjoy planning these parties. I like trying to find a theme that will work for both my kids, figuring out some fun games and decorations and of course seeing my kids have fun on their special day. It’s a way for me to show them how much I love them. By putting in the time and effort to plan a fun special day for them.
That’s not to say I will never do a party out of my house or even that I think there is anything wrong with doing a party of my house. I understand why people choose to do that and as my kids get older I can promise that we will have a birthday party here and there that is not in our backyard or basement. I just don’t want that to become the norm for us. I would rather start us on a bit of an elementary level and work our way up to something a little more complex.
So here I am looking for carnival themed invitations, planning a menu, looking for prizes and games (anyone know where I can get temporary tattoos for a tattoo stand???) and trying to make this day special for my little man and my little princess! It feels like just yesterday I was in tears in a hospital room hearing that my little man was going to need surgery and here is a big, strong, bright and happy little boy who brings more joy to my life that I can begin to describe. Then where did the time go??? My little princess burst into the world with much less drama but hasn’t lacked in the drama department since! I think her little sensitive personality is making up for the fact that she didn’t start off her life in such a dramatic way. She melts my heart when her little hands wrap around my neck.
I have been so blessed to have been chosen to be a mummy to these two stunning creatures, I will make sure their days are the best they can be without turning it into a royal affair.