Kids' parties: oh, what have we done? It was not a proud day when I realized I was part of the problem rather than the solution. When you have a child and become a first-time mom, your brain rewires itself for a while. It's not a subtle change, really, one day you've just become crazy. It might be as early as the day you find out you're pregnant. The day is different for everybody, but it comes, just as surely as a woman planning a wedding one day turns into Bridezilla. (FYI, one of the perks of getting married in Vegas is you cut your Bridezilla time substantially.)
So as a Childzilla I let corporate America sweep me up in the con that it was necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on a party for a 3 year old. And a 4 year old. And a 5 year old. Right about this time my second child was ready for parties with his preschool friends and now I was spending big bucks on two parties a year. And that's when it hit me; when I was shopping yet again for the perfect obligatory favor after already paying for a party and a cake, not to mention presents for my little princess, that celebrating something as beautiful and natural as my child's birth had become a commercial enterprise. And frankly, one I couldn't really afford.
When I was a kid, my birthday started with some butter on my nose (I'm sure you have your weird traditions too, try not to judge) and generally ended with a family meal followed by cake and ice cream. That was it. I generally got a present from my mother, each of my aunts and my grandmother. Sometimes all the cousins were over, sometimes not. My birthday is in August, so to my recollection I never had a party with school friends.
My daughter's birthday is in July and I was determined for her to have the parties I didn't. Not because I didn't enjoy my birthday, I looked forward to my special day as much as any other holiday, but because I might have missed out on something. So no home parties for my girl; once she was old enough to invite school friends her soirées were outsourced. Let somebody else organize, entertain, and clean up the mess. Bring on the hoopla. And as is the case once your child hits school age, the invitations starting flying. She was invited to dozens of parties, some were home parties, but most weren't. Other parents were spending a mint too. And while the children love these parties (who wouldn't?) they are oblivious to how special these events are because they have become commonplace.
And that is the problem. Where is the special? When you have 10 dolls, you might not care about any of them, whereas if you had only one, you're likely to drag it everywhere. Children are so surrounded by stuff that none of it matters. It is just background noise.
As you might imagine, once my birthday epiphany arrived, I made the decision to cease all further birthday extravaganzas until I was able to wrap my mind around this thing. I have a couple of friends who give their children the choice: Do you want me to give you the party or presents? You can't have both. Of course they will get both because these parties tend to generate mountains of presents. I want my child to feel celebrated, but I don't think that should translate into an extravagant number of business transactions.
This weekend my girl was invited to a party for one of her school friends. She went to a pottery studio and made pinch pots, followed by some good old fashioned playing and treats. Perfect. (Why in the heck didn't I think of that?) The next day we went to a family party where the entertainment consisted of the household's jungle gym, a piñata and mom face painting the kids. Also perfect. My daughter loved both. And I had another epiphany (hence this post).
The children aren't there for the background noise of expense. The fun of the party is the people. It is being side by side with their friends, giggling and experiencing each other amongst unique circumstances. Just like all the things Bridezilla worries about for her party, t matter for Childzillas' parties either. Those kids don't care about the favors, no matter how clever they are. They don't really care about the decorations or the music or the games either. The best part of the party is 2 hours with friends. It is a child's version of a dinner party, an occasion I tend to enjoy immensely.
So now I am on a mission to be an advocate for simple celebrations. To make amends to any mother who felt obligated to throw their kid an expensive party after attending one of my children's events. This Childzilla has seen the light. While my daughter won't be celebrating her 7th birthday in Vegas (it works for Bridezillas but not for Childzillas), her party also won't cost me what I'm likely to lose when I go there.
It is one thing for fellow moms to really enjoy throwing lavish parties for their precious monkeys as I once did, and I will continue to send my children as guests to those parties cheerfully. But to those moms out there like myself who have spent enough already, if you want to invite my kids to a backyard potluck, I'll bring the taco dip.
I like to throw things.