In BOOK EXCERPTS on September 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm

            Once upon a time birthdays used to be celebrated with family a few friends and a simple birthday cake.  Games such as musical chairs, Tag, Hide n’ seek a few races were all that were required.  What the hell happened?

            Birthday parties now require several months planning and remortgaging your house.  Imagine the stress my husband goes through having to pay for six birthday parties a year! Of course the EMM’s and SM’s are the ones that plan the social birthday party of the year. Not me!  I was the mom who embarrassed my children by insisting those who had birthdays at least two months apart had to have their party together. 

            Well times have changed for sure and these days you can’t have a party unless it is peanut free, egg free, gluten free, and oh hell everything has to be free of some type of ingredient!  Moms must know the updated “in” character for the birthday party theme as parties are just not cool if they are not branded.  You cannot just have plain paper plates and napkins unless you want to be the social outcast.  Everything has to match so if you have Pokémon plates then the hats, streamers, napkins, cups and blowers all better be Pokémon as well.

            It has become a competitive fight for the perfect venue, perfect party, number of guests (apparently the more guests you have the more popular you or your child is) food, and of course the loot bags.  Those friggn’ loot bags!  What the hell ever happened to a plain lunch bag filled with candy?  Oh no, now it is a huge deal and the gifts you put in that fancy or licensed bag costs almost as much as buying an actual birthday present!  It is my belief that loot bags today cost at least ten dollars and up per child.  Ridiculous I know.

            I have to admit though, when I only had my first two children I fell prey to this whole birthday party business.  Boy did I!  Being a former National gymnast I suppose I have a few competitive bones in me and I spent hours making the perfect loot bags.  One of my hobbies is to crochet so when year I actually crocheted the bags and matching hats for the girls, and special Pokemon sacs to hold the trading cards for the boys.  I did a lot of crocheting let me tell you.  I must have been crazy or something.

            Now the whole birthday party is completely different.  If the child really wants a party at a special venue then he or she must share the party with whatever sibling has a birthday closest to them.  For example Sebastian wanted his party at this new indoor playground.  Zachary’s birthday is a month after Sebastian’s and wanted his party there as well.  So I booked one party and they each were allowed eight guests.  This way they both got what they wanted and I only had to pay for one party, saving me about three hundred dollars or so. 

            As my gang of children grew the parties at home became more of a reality.  I am lucky that all but one of my children’s birthdays fall in the spring or summer so it is very easy to plan a party at the house in the backyard.  The children love it, the costs are much as I only have to pay for a few pizza’s, snack food, cake and the loot bags.

            As a mom who has been through many birthday parties I encourage you to try not to fall victim to the competitive birthday party race.  Be creative, and get your child involved in the preparations so they can enjoy themselves more.  If they are turning eight tell them they can only invite eight guests.  If you are brave enough to have a sleep over then cut the guest list in half.  Now speaking of sleepovers there is another alternative you can try – a sleepover without the children actually sleeping at your home.  You have them come in their p.j.’s and bring their pillow, sleeping bags etc..plan for pizza, chips, and then depending on the children and ages, have a make-over session, or a movie and then the guests get picked up at say ten or eleven (again depends on the ages).  The loot bags can even be related to the theme.  If you had a make-over then put lip gloss, fancy soaps and face clothes in the bags.  If it is a party for boys relate it to the movie, for example if it was star wars movie then add a star wars figurine or trading cards in the bags.  Having a simple party may ease your anxiety levels, trim the competitiveness, and save your sanity.  You may be surprised at what a great time you child has.






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