Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Whose Birthday Is It Anyway?

I long ago gave up the hopes of being popular. My rather kid-centric views don't hold a lot of water in our very adult-centric world. Eh. I'll live. As such, I'm here with another unpopular view: kids' birthday parties...they should be for kids.

Let me clarify for a moment. I see no reason to invite your friends, unless they are close to the child whose birthday it is (and by 'close' I mean close - not that they spend a lot of time with you and in the same vicinity as your child, but really don't know about anything that is important to said kid). I see no reason to have alcohol. I see no reason to make it about you or anyone else other than the birthday girl or boy, because it's NOT about you or anyone else. It's a child's birthday and subsequent party. The kid doesn't have a birthday to give you an excuse to party, show off, and make it your day.

Let me put it another way. Is your child allowed to invite his or her friends to your birthday bashes? Do you provide special food, beverage, entertainment, activities for your son or daughter for them to celebrate your big day? Perhaps, but probably not. Your child can't drink, so why have available drink that has nothing to do with the child whose day it is? Your child doesn't care about your business contacts, so why are they there? Your college roommate who just moved back into town - don't invite her. You may want to see her, but it's not your day.

Whose day is it? Why not let your child be in charge of the guest list, menu, theme, decorations, cake, music, EVERYTHING? It is their special day, after all.

Just another perspective to think on and a few different examples of differing perspectives to illustrate the good, the bad, and the ugly of birthday parties (you choose which is which):







Addendum (9/30/13): After conversing with a few friends on this post, it has been brought to my attention that I have perhaps been unclear. This post is not to say that NO adults should be at a kid's party. It is not to say that NO restrictions should be put on a kid's party while they get to have whatever they want. The point is, it's their party. Their party. Not yours. Theirs. If they want great-grandma at the party, then great-grandma should be invited. If they want an 80s hair band costume party and its within your ability to do so, they should be to choose that. If they want a full-blown circus in the backyard and that's not in the budget, talk to them about why that's not feasible and try to compromise with a circus theme if that's what they want. Alcohol, no, I still vote not on that. If my 14 year old son is a vegetarian and I choose carnivorous fare simply for the guests, I find that to be disrespectful to my son whose birthday party it is. He can't drink alcohol yet. Is it a huge sacrifice to not drink for a couple hours at a kids' gathering?
I hope that clears things up.

10 comments:

  1. it never even occurred to me to invite business associates (assuming i had any) to a child's party...adults, yes, because i like to assume that the other kids' mums or dads could & would stay with their kids, but with the idea that they will either play with the children (i do, especially with little ones), or else sit with other adults enjoying the spectacle of the children running about and having fun. there's a great delight in watching them run freely or take part in the silly traditional games like egg & spoon race, or dress-up play. i never understood why the other parents were assuming it was better to drop them and dash off. i remember my daughter's birthday parties very fondly. it wasn't about showing off; it was about setting a stage, as it were, with good, simple, beautiful food and things the children would enjoy doing, and letting them eat and play. a few old-style games, cake & presents, but mostly lots of joyful free play. no rented inflatable stuff or character-linked goods. i can honestly say that a good time was had by all.

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    1. I think having parents of guests there so that you're not also in charge of babysitting is different than inviting all of your own guests. How odd it would seem to me to have parents just drop their small children off and run. Like you don't already have enough going on? Your birthday parties seem awesome to me!

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  2. I like your take on this, I find the nuttiness around parties disturbing. However, I do like to have a glass of wine to celebrate MY role in their birthday. I put in a great deal of effort and work and planning in their births, and so I like to have a private celebration of my role in that. That's not to do with their birthday, or to detract from it, rather it's to celebrate a day which is important to me, it's a day I learnt about the power of my body and I think that deserves a celebration.

    As for allowing them to choose everything to celebrate the day - yes, within reason. I wouldn't plan a birthday party without consulting the other people who lived in my house. Given I would be expected to pay for and provide decorations and food, then I expect to be involved in the planning - because, to put it simply somethings might not be possible due to budgets etc. Note I'm not saying that a parent should dictate, I'm saying it should be a collaboration - exactly as it would be if I were to plan my birthday party.

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    1. When does a parent's say stop, though? If you say you'll help with a child's wedding, do you get to have a say in the way it turns out because you're helping with the financial aspect? That sounds dangerously like gift-giving as a means of control, which I wrote about here: http://www.zenparenting.us/2013/09/gift-giving-as-means-of-control.html

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    2. No it's not about gift giving as a form of control. It's about saying, here is our budget, both time wise and money wise, let's see what we can do with that. It's a fabulous learning opportunity - how can we make this work together. You want a large cake, how can we make that work in this budget? I don't see that as control, that's about living together. It's not about control, it's about what can work together. You want a big party with lots of people, well we have a small house, so how can we make this work? That's collaboration.

      I hear you about gift control, and that is not ok - this is different, this is about living with others. I wouldn't throw a party when my kids need their sleep - that's about living together. I wouldn't throw a boozy party with lots of dancing, because I have children and that wouldn't be safe for them. I wouldn't throw a party with lots of food my son can't eat because of his intolerances.

      That's what I mean. It's about learning to live together. And all interested parties have to make compromises ADULTS included.

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    3. I think budget is a different issue than what I'm writing on here. That's certainly always a concern of mine. If my son wanted a petting zoo and elephant rides, I'd have to go with a big no on that. But I wouldn't ever want him to feel that because I'm paying for something I get some sort of vote on whether he wants dinosaurs or ice skaters on his cake.

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    4. Absolutely :) completely agree there!! I will admit though once when my child changed birthday cake wants 24 hours before the party and I had spent hours on the cake already I said no. That's what I meant by budgets for time too. We talked about it, and I empathised, and showed them the cake, once I listened to all the emotions they were cool with it. They saw the time I had put into their first request. I cannot even remember the full conversation now, but I know it was resolved. If the same thing happened again, I would probably offer to do that theme for the next birthday, or try to incorporate it in some way, I can't remember if I offered those solutions though, I know I heard my son, and he heard me - and that to me was the most important part of it. We compromised, he saw me, I saw him - always listening, and working with each other.

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    5. Sounds like parenting done right, if you ask me.

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  3. My son's first birthday had 115 people invited. 80 showed up and 33 of those 80 were kids. Complete with a 3 tiered cake, a bounce house, a toddler jungle play area and... a dj and alcohol. I made sweet potato casserole, sweet potatos are his favorite food. The party started at 2, after his nap. And ended at 8. The amount of money spent was crazy, I admit. But I love the memories. I love that I have professional photos showing that 20 people drove or flew from ny, ms, al, dc, all to celebrate the life and birth of my amazing son. If he asks later in life for a different style party he will get it and I do look forward to planning parties witb his input and around his interests. However I won't allow his birthday to become a tool so he can hurt others. He may not want his great aunt there but she loves him and wants to celebrate with him and for that reason she will be invited. The only deciding factor to a guest list will be does this person love and care for the best interest of my child? If yes they are invited. Gifts are optional and I don't believe in goodie bags. And no matter how many adults attend the party is child centered. I get this perspective. In my husbands culture big elaborate parties are customary but they are really for the adults. Held in upscale restaurants .. kids dressed in tuxedoa or gowns. It's more like a wedding than a kids party.

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  4. I don't see it as giving my son power to hurt someone. I see it as respecting my son's wishes. At an adult's birthday party, nobody invites guests based on who they want - only based on who the celebrant wants. Why not give the same respect to the child?

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