January 27, 2010


Filed under: Kids and Life — jenny @ 6:19 pm

This post stirred up a lot of mombast (you know…like bombast; sue me, I watched Motherhood with Uma Thurman yesterday and it made me think of all the cute ways “mom” can be worked into otherwise adult vocabulary). Anyway, for examples thereof, read the comments.

It’s funny because what the piece made me think more than anything is not that Jennifer is wrong for wanting Lily to have the Best Party Ever at the Little Gym (or egads, American Girl). Still less that Lulu is wrong for depriving Prince of goody bags, which after all probably account for at least a fractional amount of our excess carbon footprint.

But that *everyone* is wrong for seeing either choice as wrong or right. It’s something unique to our generation that keeps couching things in these terms. Good and bad. Which really translates into good for the kids, or bad for the kids, of course.

Either we’re congratulating ourselves on throwing the best party–or teaching Moomba the right values–or else we’re guilting ourselves into thinking that whatever choice we make, it will be wrong and our kids (who else?) will suffer for it.

Well, maybe someone will suffer. But it won’t be the kids, sick, happy and stuffed full.

It will be the moms and dads who totter beneath a stack of pizzas higher than a small building. Or scrambling to fill the goody bags, clean up the wilted leftovers of balloons, and scrape cake gunk off carpet, shoes, and teeth.

I say, throw a party if you enjoy doing so. If this is a yearly rite you’d like to give your kids. And, secondarily, if the kid in question enjoys it. If you or he would prefer something different, that’s good, too.

More importantly, let’s stop worrying if what we did was the exact right thing.

Birthdays will come every year. Party or no, we’re all getting older. That will go down a little easier if we give each other a break.


  1. My princess. Will have. The best. Of everything.

    And that’s all there is to it.


    Comment by SapphireSavvy — January 27, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

  2. Wow! I agree, the most striking things about the article to me were: a) that people need to justify giving or not giving parties, and b) the amount of emotion invested in the justifications. It really is sad how every parenting decision that people make is under the microscope, and often blown all out of proportion. Sometimes I think children were better off before everyone was constantly worried about their fragile psyches. And I can’t help but wonder if the more people focus on them, the more fragile they become.

    Okay, I’m not a mom, so what do I know? But I grew up in the days when a birthday party was musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey, some cake and ice cream, and those pointy party hats with the elastic that goes under your chin and half strangles you. We thought it was great. (And I turned out only a little insane.) :-)

    Comment by Lauren S — January 27, 2010 @ 9:23 pm

  3. Funny how I read that article and thought nothing of it. Really…it makes total sense to me. However I am also the person who was reading the http://www.birthdayswithoutpressure.org/ website years ago. Although we did have birthday parties yearly when we had just one child…and then two kids but they weren’t always at the big party places.

    Now that our third child is here I gave the older two the law of parties every other year. Yes we still celebrated their birthday with a family or friend fun event and had cake but financially it was a lot less money and I think it teaches them a very good lesson about being having fun with less! Funny since it’s a party year our oldest is already planning her big day (10 months away). We’ve already discussed how she is responsible for sticking to a budget (I love how we can incorporate everyday math into this..heh). Right now she is debating whether or not to have a party or spend the party money on a new American Girl Doll. Such decisions!

    Overall I’m not one to do what everyone else does and I hope that this lesson is taught to my children as well.

    Comment by Tara — January 27, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

  4. Ah, how we do love our princesses and princes. In the end, that’s what all this discussion is about, isn’t it? How to do that…see? I was going to say “best”. But now I will just say, in the right way for us and for them.

    Lauren, hear, hear! Truer words were never spoken than more focus=more fragile. I saw this all the time as a therapist. And–you know a lot. PS: I went to a wonderful pin-the-tail birthday just the other day. You know what? The kids still love it. Only thing is now I how much *work* those “simple” parties are ;)

    And Tara–welcome! So glad you chimed in. I feel like the lesson you mention is key. Do things the way they work for your family and not only will your kids tune into what makes them tick (versus what the crowd demands) but they will know it’s OK to be different. I am a big believer–as readers of this blog know–in not giving our kids too, too much. I have to say that with the tip of my tongue in my cheek because we have so damn much–some of us–in this country that it’s often hard to teach anything like perspective. My husband talks about a reverse Fresh Air Fund–send our kids to where things are really spare, and maybe they won’t melt down if we run out of ketchup one night. But of course we can’t do that. And I don’t, do not, mean to speak lightly of poverty. I want my kids to have enough perspective that perhaps one day they seek to remedy some of the ills that plague us. Maybe a birthday-ever-other-year is related to that, just a bit…

    Comment by jenny — January 27, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

  5. I recently returned from Colorado where I attended my grandson’s 2nd birthday. Somewhere, way back in the dark ages when I was raising kids, there was the suggestion that the number of guests be comparable to the kid’s age.

    When my kids were growing up, 90% of the parties were at-home affairs with a few games, cake & ice cream and maybe hot dogs if you wanted to toss lunch into the mix. Later, parties at the local skating rink or Burger King came into vogue, but they were still simple affairs.

    Those were the days.

    Comment by Terry Odell — January 28, 2010 @ 10:39 am

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