Children's Birthday Parties Under Scrutiny
The truth behind extravagant children birthday parties
Since I became a grandmother in 2004, I have noticed that the birthday parties of babies, toddlers and pre-school children are much more extravagant as when I was a young mother. Although the same things are still on the menu - a birthday cake, red and green soft drinks, all sorts of candy, potato chips (crisps), popcorn and ‘lucky dips’ - all of the rest have changed.
To name but only a few of the changes I regard as 'extravagant':
- The most extraordinary invitations;
- Balloons filled with helium all over the venue;
- Extraordinary large and wacky cakes;
- A theme with matching table cloths, serviettes, plates, cups, glasses, and what-have-yous;
- Jumping castles, swings and slides, all hired at great expense;
- A funky venue - anywhere, but the child's own home.
Why do mothers, supported by their husbands, put so much effort and money into the birthdays of their children, while the children are not even old enough to appreciate all of it?
"Because we love our children!" I've been told.
The birthday parties I have under scrutiny have nothing to do with the love a mother has for her child, but rather with the love she has for herself. The truth is as clear as daylight: Mothers of today are competing against each other, each one with the hope that she will be admired and regarded as the 'Best Loving Mother'.
Have I said something wrong?
Let me compare today's birthday parties to those of 'my time'.
In my time -
- We did not invite the grandparents; we knew they would turn up.
- We did not invite the uncles and the aunties and the cousins. All of them knew they were welcome to pop in for a piece of cake, and we would accept their absence without any hullabaloo.
- We did not invite our personal friends, except when their children were the same age as ours.
- We invited the friends of our children and their parents personally, and even via a telephone call, as they were usually our neighbors. (Nursery schools and pre-primary schools were still a new concept, and only attended by the children of working mothers.)
Of course, the family's tradition was still practiced: The person celebrating their birthday, whether baby, child or adult, was awakened with the 'Happy Birthday" song, sung by the entire family living under the same roof as the birthday person. Besides gifts, the person celebrating their birthday got breakfast served in bed, or at least a piece of cake. A party in the afternoon, evening, or coming Saturday, would be on the agenda, but nothing out of the ordinary. (If there was a special party during a person's childhood, it would have been on their 16th birthday. A formal 21st birthday party went without saying.
In the current milieu -
Every single guest receives a most creative invitation in writing with a RSVP date, delivered by hand or electronically via e-mail or cell phone.
In my time -
The theme of a toddler/child's birthday party was "balloons". There were many colorful balloons to be played with until they burst. The birthday cake was the shape of the child's age, and the appropriate number of candles were on it to be blown out by the child. Only the most creative mothers surprised their kids with a cake that looked like a Walt Disney character.
In the current milieu -
The cake and all paraphernalia have to communicate a particular theme: Dalmatian dogs, crocodiles, angels, sponge pops, flowers, cats, and so forth. Balloons have to be filled with helium in order to display the chosen theme. Even the guests, and especially the children, have to wear whatever compliments the theme.
Fortunately mothers come to their senses
By the time the oldest child turns seven, most mothers of today come to their senses and realize that they were on an ego trip for almost seven years. From here on their children are allowed to decide what they want to do with whom on their special day of the year. Most mothers are surprised, as their children don't want expensive and extravagant birthday parties. Their only desire is to spend time with their favorite friends, and this could be as humble as watching a movie in the local theater and/or having a milkshake in a local restaurant. They are even willing to have a birthday without a party as long as they receive the gift of their choice.
The birthday parties of my own grandchildren
I must admit that my daughter and daughter-in-law never competed against each other and their friends for the 'Best Loving Mother' award. Their only intention was to create an opportunity for their children to enjoy their special day of the year with family and friends.