parent opinion

'Your kids won't even remember it.' We need to talk about children's birthday parties.

Recently, I chatted with another mum who was super stressed about her daughter's first birthday party. She couldn't figure out the theme, kept changing her mind about the invitations, and complained about the cost of party favours. She continued for a full five minutes about this elaborate party.

I don't like to give unsolicited advice to parents because I hate it when others do it to me. I knew she probably just wanted me to listen but I couldn't relate to why she was stressing herself out over something her daughter won't even remember.

So I looked at her and said, "How about not doing any of that?"

She gasped and chuckled, assuming I was being snarky by making an absurd joke. Then she shook her head and kept stressing. I resumed listening and nodding.

While you're here, watch the things people never say at kids' parties. Story continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

For both my kids, I did nothing crazy for their birthday parties. Until they start school, they need little to have a good time. When they were babies, they slept throughout the party and got passed around from one family member to another. As toddlers, they wandered around touching things.

To plan their special occasions, I had a very short list of things I needed to accomplish. These include setting a time and place, telling people, and getting a cake and some kid-friendly food. That was it! 

Here are four things I didn't do that simplified birthday party planning and kept me sane all these years.

1. No theme.

Dinosaurs or space? Safari or under the sea? Princesses or superheroes? Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig?

The benefit of not having a theme is that there is no need to decorate according to the chosen theme. Maybe I have some leftover orange and black balloons from Halloween and some red and green party streamers from Christmas? This is the time to use them up. It doesn't matter if those decorations don't meet a theme because there isn't a theme in the first place.

In addition, themes are associated with gender. If I pick a theme, I'm assuming that particular theme is what my one-year-old likes. How do I know my son will like superheroes and my daughter will like princesses? Even if I defy stereotypes and go for a gender-neutral theme, I'm still assuming that my kids like it. Then they grow up and look at their photos, cringing at my horrible decision. I'd rather play it safe and not have a theme at all.

2. No invitations.

First, it's about saving the earth and reducing the amount of paper waste. I don't know how many wedding invitations I've kept from my friends. Don't tell them but I actually threw them out the minute I saved the date on my phone.


My invitations look like a text, email or a phone call (for the older people). I can present all the information in that form and I don't need to spend a single dime on invitations.

Listen to This Glorious Mess where Holly and Andrew chat about whether or not you should be throwing out pity invites. Story continues after podcast.

3. No party favours.

I'm grateful for all the guests who come to my kids' birthday party. They're taking the time to celebrate this wonderful occasion and obviously, I want to thank them.

But does showing my appreciation mean giving them a bag that is filled with random plastic junk that they may or may not like? No.

Whether it's a Yo-Yo or an eraser, those things get tossed in the jumble of stuff once the kid goes home. There is already a giant ball of plastic called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch floating in the ocean. I'd rather not contribute to it.

In addition, I want to teach my kids that birthdays are about spending quality time with those they care about and less about material rewards. Being present with one another is a present itself.

4. No entertainment.

A clown? Magician? Petting zoo? Bouncy castle? Face painting?

I didn't pay for any of those.

Babies don't need to be entertained because everything is new to them; they're constantly learning and being fascinated with the world.

Give a couple of new toys, some balloons and bubbles to toddlers and they will play with them for hours on end.

Preschoolers are incredibly creative at entertaining themselves. Taking them to the playground and letting them run wild can be exceptionally fun and memorable.

It's not that I don't care about my kids' birthdays. It's just that I find social media has glorified and glamorised birthdays to a point where it's all about how it looks rather than how it feels... doing it for the likes rather than for the experience.

Besides, when it comes to their big day, who went through the pain of delivering them into this world? I have the scars to prove it. Why should I create more stress for myself when I really should be commended as the guest of honour?

Birthdays are about celebration and joy. As long as my kids feel extra loved, have fun and create happy memories on their special day, that's all that matters.

Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP is an author, wife and mum of two. She writes stories to empower individuals to talk about their feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them. You can find more from Katharine on her website or podcast, or you can follow her on InstagramFacebookTwitter or YouTube.

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Feature Image: Getty.

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