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$38K on a Birthday Party

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Breastfeeding and childbirth, two of the "hot button issues" when it comes to the mommy wars get a lot of play on this blog. I've often heard it said (usually by people that disagree with me on the importance of breastfeeding) that "none of this stuff will matter in five years."

Apparently what I'm supposed to care about in five years is how I'm going to "keep-up" with everyone else when it comes to birthday parties.

Ask a parent about birthday parties and you'll probably get a sigh and a description of the last party their kid went to — limousine service, a petting zoo or Ferris wheel, and definitely elaborate goody bags — followed by their despair at having to organize their own equally expensive party for their child's birthday.

Really? Guess I missed that boat on that one. For Elnora's first birthday, we went to dinner with Greg's parents and his brother's and their wives. There were 9 of us. We came home, put Elnora in the high chair, she had a piece of cake, she went to bed. For her second birthday, Greg and I (plus the kids) went to his parents for the weekend. My parents went too. We ate dinner at his parents house and gave Nora a slice of birthday cake. She went to bed.

Emmitt's first two birthday parties will likely go the same way.

Who are these children that have 20 friends at the age of 2?

It makes me think of that line from "The Wedding Singer" ... "you're eight years old! you only know your parents!"

You know which birthday parties I remember the most growing up? The Murphy family that lived two doors down. They had eleventy billion kids (ok...five) and most of them had birthdays in the summer. That means that at some random point while we were all out playing, their mom would mention that we were welcome to come have cake that night. My brother and I would go home and mention it to my mom. She'd pull a couple Matchbox cars (dad always kept a good supply of new in box Matchbox cars for just such an occasion) down and wrap them up. Off we went to the "party."

It was a blast. It didn't cost anyone anything and since we were 5 or 7 or 9 years old...what did we care?

When I got older, birthday parties were usually sleepovers with half a dozen or so friends. We'd stay up, eat pizza and junk food and watch movies. (Dirty Dancing...Goonies...The Breakfast Club...) We'd play truth or dare and light as a feather, stiff as a board.

It was a blast. It didn't hardly cost anyone anything and since we were 11 or 12 or 13 years old, what did we care?

The "fancy" parties were the years when the parents would load a bunch of us into a minivan or two and take us to see a movie or to go bowling. I never once went to a party with a hired clown or magician. I've never been to a party at Chuck E. Cheese.

I don't remember coming home from someone else's birthday party with a gift of my own.

Now will someone please explain to my why I should feel obligated to throw an actual PARTY for my 2 year old? Or perhaps next fall when Elnora turns 3? Quite honestly, she's probably not going to get a party with anyone but family then either.

I look at it this way. When my child is old enough to both ask for a party and to tell me who she'd like to invite, she can have one. I'll ask her input, we'll plan it together, but I'm not taking out a loan to finance it.

"You have to perform to a certain level," says Carol Cadby, a teacher and mother of a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old in Arlington, Va.


"A lot of parents feel they're on a birthday-party treadmill that gets faster every year. They're afraid their birthday party won't measure up and their child will be disappointed."

Who ARE these people???

When did it become a BAD thing for a child to "end up disappointed?"



  1. Blogger Heather | 7:27 PM |  

    My daughter turned one in November. She had a party. It involved her close family and a few friends (our friends, not hers) and some hot dogs. We had bags of chips, drinks, and we all laughed while she stuffed herself full of cake and went "ooooooooh!" to the light up noisemaker thingies.

    I didn't provide goodie bags ,and there wasn't any entertainment (well, the radio was on). We just talked and had fun. And Elisabeth chased an 18 month old boy around his daddy's legs.

  2. Blogger Jennifer | 7:45 PM |  

    Just to note, I'm not anti-birthday party. I just don't get this whole "extravagant" concept and the "must impress everyone else" ideas.

    For instance, I GET going to Chuck E Cheese or someplace similar just because you don't have the time or desire to clean your house before or after a party. ;)

    I DON'T get renting a limo to pick up your kid's 6 year old friends before hauling them off to a private party at a toy store. ;)

  3. Anonymous Melissa | 8:21 PM |  

    Whatever you do DON'T go to Chuck E Cheeses unless you want to have an immediate seisure, hah hah.

    The best birthday parties we ever had for my stepson were the ones at our house. He'd invite some school friends over, we'd have a pinata (sorry, no tilda on this keyboard) that we filled ourselves, dad would have a water balloon fight with all the kids (birthday is early summer so warm enough), then some cake and ice cream and presents. Simple, cheap, and a lot of running around outside. Who could ask for more?

    Babies don't need a birthday party - that's silly! Birthday parties for babies are really parties for parents. A kind of congratulations for having made it that far. So along with the cake have a little beer or wine! :-)

  4. Anonymous Mary Jo | 4:02 PM |  

    We had the "requiste" first birthday party, inviting tons of family and friends. It was a pain in the neck, since we had to have it later in the day because of my MIL's work schedule. So, the star of the show was a crabby baby who hadn't had his nap. RAAR! I absolutly refused to do it again for his second birthday. We did presents and cake with family (twice, but my family is 6 hours away, so . . . that's life). I get having a birthday party for school age kids. I even get having it somewhere else. But there MUST be a limit. 38 K. Please. My car wouldn't cost that much if I bought it new (which I didn't).

  5. Blogger Damien McKenna | 10:41 AM |  

    We had a birthday party for our son when he was one, held it at a relative's house (they could house more guests, family and friends of ours), we grilled and had some decorations. We didn't want to give our son a disgusting store-bought cake, and didn't want to load him up on sugars, so we made a "cake" out of layers of pancakes with apple sauce to ice it all together. We set him down for the cake and instead of grabbing it with his hands, like we expected, he leaned over on his high chair and took a big bite out of it! It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen a child do! :-D

  6. Blogger Jennifer | 11:30 AM |  

    Ha! That's exactly what Elnora did!

    I'd made her a cake using my mini-springform pans so that she had this tiny little layered cake that was just her size.

    We put her in her chair, set it in front of her, she looked at it, then bent over and licked the frosting. ;)

    She took about two more licks and was done with it.

    Glad I didnt spend much money on it. :)

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