Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Birthday Party Politics--Part 1

Back in the day, birthday parties were for family, with maybe one close friend invited. Large parties with friends and classmates were not typical for every birthday--maybe once every few years, and you didn't need a theme.

Now, of course, birthday parties are a big deal, and I don't mean just for the kids. I realized this when my kiddo was turning 3, and every year since then it has been increasingly complicated. A child's birthday party should be, within reason, the way he or she wants it. At home, at a park, or at a different venue? What flavor cake and ice cream? And most importantly, what friends does the birthday boy or girl want to invite? Ha! If only it were that simple!

I was speaking to a friend whose kids are in their 40s and she was shocked by the evolution of the birthday party, especially the stress caused by the guest list. It's normal for kids to make friends at school, but then there are kids from church, extra-curricular activities, mommy groups, neighbors, kids of mommy's friends...But that's not all--party planners must also consider reciprocating when their child has been invited to other birthday parties. These considerations make planning a party a big (stressful) deal.

For the kiddo's 3rd birthday, we treated her and a small group of her friends to a get-together at a cupcake shop. It was lovely, and it was comparable to parties we attended for her friends. After that, though, the parties got bigger and more complicated. It was understandable, though--the kiddo was making more and more friends, yet still seeing the old ones. With the addition of more guests to the guest list came the need to keep all those kids occupied. Additional food, games, crafts, goody bags...

Then the time came when the kiddo wasn't invited to a friend's party. The girls saw each other frequently and still enjoyed each others' company more than they squabbled, so my guess is that the other girl had new friends and her parents were drawing the line about how many guests they had the room and/or money to invite. I wished the birthday girl a happy birthday when I saw her, and later, when the kiddo asked about the party, I suggested that maybe it was a small party with just family. That satisfied the kiddo, but the whole experience was awkward.

Then, of course, when the kiddo's birthday came around, she kept talking about her party and asking if the other little girl was coming. Um, well, ahem, not this one...we could only invite a few people this time...yes, all of those other kids are coming, but we are way over the limit and we had to draw the line somewhere...

That was an uncomfortable conversation, but it got worse when the kiddo kept talking about her party in front of the other girl! My first instinct was to put a gag over the kiddo's mouth, but I quickly realized that wouldn't work. I would have had to tie her up, too, to make sure she couldn't remove the gag*. That would have led to an even more awkward encounter, so I took the girl's mom aside and told her that I felt like poo. This woman must have experienced similar birthday angst, because she was wonderfully understanding. After that, I decided not to let birthday party angst get the better of me. Until.....

*You really had to check for a disclaimer? It was a joke!

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