Friday, 24 August 2012

Kids' birthday craziness

My oldest was at a birthday party this afternoon - at his friend's house. Not the wave pool, the hockey arena, or the indoor play place; not the bowling alley, the batting cages or Chuck E Cheese. The party was at his home. His parents didn't hire a petting zoo, a magician, or a half-dozen bouncy castles for the affair; the invitations - homemade by the birthday boy - told everyone to wear their favourite hockey jersey and bring their sticks and they spent the afternoon playing street hockey.

I didn't know people did that anymore. I didn't know it was acceptable to do that anymore.

Remember when we were kids? Back then a birthday party was a dozen of our classmates coming over for pizza and cake and ice cream and a couple of hours of games in the basement or backyard. Now, it has to be at a location - one of the zillion or so indoor playplaces popping up on every street corner, or the local pool or skating rink or soccer dome or bowling alley. And there has to be a theme. No longer is it acceptable to buy a chocolate ice-cream cake and stick the appropriate number of candles on top. Now it must be in the shape of the child's favourite character or activity. The balloons and pinata and napkins and tableware and take-home loot bags must also be coordinated. This is how it's done these days.

Our kids have their first "friend party" at five years old, so we've been doing this for a few years now. We have had parties at Chuck E Cheese, at the bowling alley, and at the public pool. We have had a Transformers-themed party, a Star Wars-themed party, a pirate-themed party, a soccer-themed party, and a couple of Cars parties - with coordinated cakes, balloons, loot bags, and swag. The kids have been invited to parties at all the same locations, plus the hockey rink, the soccer dome, the Science Centre, various indoor playplaces, and the odd rental hall where there's a hired reptile show or a clown and a magician or a bunch of carnival games and bouncy castles. This is the first party we have ever been invited to at someone's home.

When did it all become so extravagant? We all love doing as much as we possibly can for our kids - but is there some point at which it all becomes a little bit over the top? Should planning a children's birthday party take as much coordination as a small wedding reception?

My son had an absolute blast at his friend's party. They played street hockey and basketball. The cake and hot chocolate were served right there on the front lawn. The loot bags were filled with a mish-mash of un-themed toys and candies - the kind of junk kids love. And the mom probably spent all of an hour and a half shopping, planning and decorating for this party. I'm jealous beyond words - and possibly rethinking our plans for next year's birthday celebrations.

You might also like...
Baby's first birthday
Birthdays...a week-long extravaganza