We have only ever gone to a couple of traditional kids’ birthday parties, and I found myself rather stupefied by the level of noise, activity, and, um, greed that seems totally acceptable. The scene of a gang of children gathered around the birthday child as he or she rips into a pile of presents while they look on enviously, wishfully. Then the expectation of really fabulous goodie bags for every child. Is this where the birthday party scene is at these days? Parties at grocery stores, bowling alleys, pools, movie theatres, amusement parks that cost more than a weekend away for the whole family. This does not make sense to me.
Somehow we have mostly managed to avoid the whole question of “kid parties” by sticking to the family model of celebrating the occasion. Invite the grandparents, a couple of cousins, auntie and uncle, have a nice potluck, a cake and a few gifts. The girls have loved doing this in their preschool years, but the time had to finally come to host a kid party. When children start going to school and getting invited to other birthday parties, they start to see what they have been missing out on, namely the big kid party with tons of presents. And then of course they WANT that, too.
So here we are, facing the questions. Or probably I am the only one who agonizes over these things. I suggested we do a party at home with fun activities but request that no gifts be brought. That will do away with the need for parents to shell out money where perhaps they can’t really afford to. That idea was nixed right away by Dan, who felt that our daughter would feel ripped off. What?? Party, but no gifts? What kind of party is this??!
Alright then, how about asking kids to bring a small donation for the Humane Society or the food bank? A noble idea, but probably won’t fly, I was told. Well, then let’s set a limit on the money that will be spent by saying “gift of no more than $5.” But we both agreed that would no doubt lead to a further proliferation of dollar store crap in our house and no one wants that.
I think that we mostly did family birthdays when we were growing up. A few hotdogs, some pop, and a homemade cake with candles. We felt special, and we got a few not-too-extravagant gifts. In Dan’s family, birthdays were huge. Big special dinner and a stack of gifts, which was a tradition carried even into adulthood. I remember early in our relationship going to his parents’ house for his birthday dinner, and there was a veritable plethora of presents that I found quite astonishing.
Now that I have my own children, I understand the urge to make the day huge and special. I even feel like maybe we shortchanged our moms somewhat by not getting them a gift on OUR birthday. After all, it is a truly monumental day for the woman who gives birth on that birth-day as well. But of course I won’t be expecting any “Happy Birthing-day” cards.
So, what will the First Kid Birthday Party look like? I am envisioning it a bit like this:
Girls and boys arrive, probably around 8 of them. We will start with a little free play time in the playroom, then gather for a short puppet show in the living room. To the craft centre for some crafting, a small make-and-take craft that will double as their party favour. We will also do a tattoo station with some fairy and dinosaur tattoos. Then FOOD! Since we don’t plan to have it at mealtime, we’ll have an assortment of snacks, like raw veggies they can make into faces on their plates, cheese, crackers, pretzels and whatever other fun-looking treats we find on Pinterest and make. A cake and ice cream, then everyone get their outdoor gear on and set them free in the yard for a while, with adult supervision of course. After all, cooping kids up indoors after cake is NEVER a good thing.
As for the gifts, not sure yet. I just don’t want that frenzy of gift-opening in front of the group. If anyone has any ideas of how to handle birthday gift time, please help.
What matters of course is that our daughters enjoy the day, that the birthday girl feels special, and loved, and joyous, and that she knows how much it means to us that she is here in our lives. That she knows the day she was born was one of the best in our lives.