parent opinion

'5 reasons why we decided to take a year-long break from kid's birthday parties.'

About six months before her birthday, my eldest daughter Addi started planning her party. She decided on a theme, the games we would play and the guest list.

For Addi, her birthday party was the subject of conversation at least once a day for months prior to the actual event. Except this year, we had decided not to have a party for her, actually, not for anyone in our family. It was a rest year from the world of parties because to be honest, kid’s birthday parties are hard work and I needed a break!

Addi was surprisingly okay with it *sigh of relief* and I was over the moon that for one year, I didn’t have to deal with all the drama that comes along with children’s birthday parties (well, at least the ones I had to organise). For me, these events were actually something I was starting to resent, dare I say it, starting to hate.

I think I started feeling this way because not only are kid’s parties beginning to take on a world of their own in general but also, because I was in the full grips of this ‘kid party world’. I was being totally overcome by all the ridiculous, over the top aspects that seem to be getting more and more popular. So, it is with a heavy heart that I announce that I was (selfishly) becoming the reason I started to hate kid’s parties. And this is why:

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1. The politics of who is invited (or who isn’t).

Kids birthday parties have become such a complex game of social and playground politics that the thought of deciding who is invited or who isn’t has literally kept me awake at night.

Whether it is that everyone in the class is invited and the thought of 25 kids running around under your supervision sees white hairs sprout from my head, or the variety of other options to try and contain it to a smaller event, it is a tricky balancing act to get right.

I’ve witnessed ‘gender only’ parties that are based on the sex of your child, a child’s choice where a select few from the class are invited and others aren’t, as well as many other variations. It is often a stress inducing task trying to keep your child happy and not upsetting the ones that weren’t invited (or their parents).

2. The activities.

Long gone are the days of two or three low key games like pass the parcel wrapped in newspaper where one child wins the prize. Now, it seems every second of the hour and a half is scheduled from one game to the next. These parties are jammed packed without a moment to even think or to actually eat the table filled with party food.

And now these ‘games’ are just giveaways because no one loses, and everyone takes home a prize. Each layer of pass the parcel (which is now wrapped in gift wrap reflective of the party theme) has something for each party attendee. Even when someone misses a chair in musical chairs they are still rewarded with a consolation prize.


3. Modern day party issues.

Recently I have seen countless articles discussing many issues that have arisen from children’s birthday parties. One is the issue of gift registries at kid’s parties, whether this is OK or not to provide these, whether a child should be able to decide what they are gifted and what they aren’t. Although this topic is a minefield in its own right, the one that really irks me is that at a recent children’s party in the UK parents of those attending were asked to pay in order to help foot the party bill.

Now I am not an expert in etiquette, but it seems the boundaries and expectations of what to expect at a child’s birthday party is certainly shifting and I am not sure if I want to get on board.

4. The theme.

More and more often the elaborateness of the party themes seems to be getting bigger and bigger. This, I’m afraid to say is where I have definitely succumbed to the ‘crazy kid’s party world’.

These epic themes, where it looks as if you’ve hired a stylist (or maybe you have) to theme every last inch of your child’s party from the shape and colours of the food to the contents of the party bags seem to be popping up on Instagram feeds the world over.

kids birthday parties break
Are the elaborate themes done for the parent's sake or the kids? Image: Supplied.

I am slightly ashamed to admit that, yes, I have done this on more than one occasion (probably more for my own sake than my child’s). But I have also witnessed more extreme versions than my own where I wonder firstly, who has this much money? And secondly, is your one year old really going to remember the ‘Baa, Baa Sheep’ cake pops you had made for their nursery rhyme themed birthday party? (Actually, this last one was also me).

5. Party entertainers.

Whether it is hiring a clown, a face painter (guilty as charged), an animal farm, a pony, a jumping castle (yep, I’ve done this too), a person dressed up as Elsa or Anna (also this) or a pup from Paw Patrol, the way in which we can outsource the entertainment now for kid’s parties seems to be becoming more commonplace.

My memories of parties at McDonalds or when someone’s parents turned on the sprinkler in the backyard and let us make their own fun are long gone; now it is bringing in external entertainment that often costs a bomb. And do the kids have more fun at these entertaining parties? Sure. Do they have more fun than they do running under a sprinkler? Probably not.

kids birthday parties break
Bring back the sprinkler, I say. Image: Supplied.

So as 2018 draws to a close and my party free year is almost complete, I will soon begin preparations for next year. I tell myself it will change but more than likely I will find myself starting my Pinterest board and book myself in for an extensive therapy program for the week that follows.

Can you relate to this? Tell us in the comments section below.