kids

The real reason why parents are throwing such extravagant birthday parties for their kids.

Picture this.

You walk into a large, luxuriously scented room, and greet the adults who are expensively dressed and camera-ready. Good thing they put in the effort, too, as there’s a professional photographer there to capture every candid smile and meaningful glance.

There’s a custom-made cake with sculpted fondant that would make Michelangelo weep… and what’s that on the other side of the room? A linen-topped table covered with huge jars of all your favourite lollies, and empty mason jars to fill and take home!

You push through the crowds while avoiding getting tangled in the ribbons that dangle from the helium balloons, so that you can get to this table filled with lollies. Now that you’re closer, you can see that there are chocolate bars that have personalised labels, and those fancy rock lollies that have messages written in them.

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It’s all so personal and mature, and you wish that your own wedding could have been this nice.But the thing is, you’re not at a wedding. And you’re not in a designer boutique where the staff are all good-looking and offering you snacks, drinks and compliments. You’re not even at the opening night of a new boutique in your local Westfield. It’s not your cousin’s 21st, or your aunt’s 70th.

You are at a toddler’s birthday party, and suddenly you’re wondering, “Am I doing parenting wrong? Or are they the crazy ones?” Welcome to parenting in the 21st century, where the pressure to throw the perfect party is sky-high. And the more sophisticated and grown-up the theme, the better.

Very rarely do my daughter, five, or son, two, attend a party with a good old-fashioned Spiderman theme and Cheezels. Bec Judd’s LOL Doll themed party for her daughter Billie – you know, the one that Judd put on Instagram only to be shamed for her extravagance – would look amateur compared to some of the parties I’ve seen and heard about.

My daughter has been to a party with a boutique theme, where the child pretends they have their own shop. (No, I’m not getting my daughter’s social life with the early seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but thanks for asking.)

 

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Party time. LOL Doll much? ????????

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And it seems that every few months, there’s a news story about how a parent has “hacked” Kmart to create the ultimate luxury-themed party for their child, such as at-home nail spas, complete with those bubbling pedicure pool things, or indoor glamping, where each child gets their own chic fabric tent adorned with fairy lights.

We’ve even been to a party centre that is like a mini town, with a post office and hairdresser and restaurant, where kids can go to pretend to be grown-ups. And these were all parties for children under five.

From these descriptions, you’d think that we were part of a super-rich group of friends from private school, who take their kids on yachts on the weekends we’re not at our hobby farm. I wish! We’re an average family who live in the suburbs of Canberra.

I’m a writer (code for “has no money”) with stickers from the Reject Shop covering the scratches on my car. My friends live similar lives – we work hard, and will only play hard if it’s a free activity, like visiting the local park. So I’m baffled as to why my family and I have been attending kids’ parties where the theme seems to be ‘Spending Like Paris Hilton in 2000’.

I’ll be the first to admit that these parties are a lot of fun… for me. I love stocking up on those lollies and having my photo taken while I’m dressed up. The fancy cake is always delicious, and the event is catered. But I don’t know if my children – or more importantly, the birthday kid – is having a good time.

 

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Luna looking like she stole something. Happy birthday, Chicago!! Thank you for having us!!

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When I was a kid, I just wanted to tear into my presents, run around and laugh hysterically, and stuff my face with party pies and lollies. Now that I’m a parent, I’ve noticed that not much has changed in what children really want from parties.

Believe me, I have tried to raise my children to be connoisseurs, who will sit quietly at a café drinking organic green juice after a morning of touring the art gallery. But guess what? They hate doing that stuff. Their idea of a great time is having a Happy Meal and climbing and yelling in the plastic play structure tower thing at McDonald’s.

And that’s why I have a love-hate relationship with those glamorous, sophisticated and expensive kids’ parties. I love them for me, because I don’t have much of a social life now that I’m a mum, and I marvel at the parents’ dedication to designing and creating the perfect party for their child. The love that they have for their child is evident, in every tiny detail.

But when I see kids who are encouraged to behave like mini-adults, and to have the taste and interests of an adult, it bums me out. It’s almost like the kid is a well-dressed prop at their own party, and an accessory to their parents’ Instagramable lives.

The parties that resemble a wedding or a retail experience don’t appeal to kids. I don’t know any child who would say that their favourite colour is cream, and that they love fresh white roses, oh and that they adore bespoke calligraphy. And yet, their party décor is all off-white thick tablecloths and 200gsm invitations with curly calligraphy that a kid wouldn’t be able to read.

 

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i had to go all out for my baby. #StormiWorld

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Maybe it’s time to admit that, as parents, our children give us the perfect excuse to indulge our inner wedding planner, personal shopper and designer. We want to give our children everything that we had, and everything we wanted. But perhaps we should save all the glam indulgence for our own parties, and not our children’s. And when we share the beautiful photos on social media, we can feel great about celebrating ourselves.

The best kid’s party that my daughter and I went to recently was at a local park which had a small water feature that the kids could play in. The birthday boy’s parents had staked out a picnic table, but I initially couldn’t find them because they hadn’t decorated the area at all.

There were no streamers or banners or balloons. Just a happy family with kids running around, eating sausages that the dad was barbecuing and eating raw veggies that were in Tupperware-style tubs. There was a giant tub of hummus, and an Esky with drinks in it.

It turned out the birthday boy’s parents had brought balloons, but they hadn’t blown them up – they were just sitting in a packet on the table. The kids got creative and filled them up with water, which was a source of much amusement in itself, as they struggled with taps and water bottles.

It was a very chill afternoon and everyone felt good. And now I have my inspiration for my son’s upcoming third birthday party.

How do you feel about extravagant children’s birthday parties? Tell us in the comments section below.  

Carla Gee is a writer and illustrator living in Canberra. You can find her on Instagram as @bycarlagee and @littlecloudcarla.

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