• In our family, birthday parties for our children kinda suck. Yes, I admit it. They are plain and boring with money spent only on good quality food. We don’t hire the magician, we don’t order $200 in mylar helium balloons that end up in the trees at the park after ten minutes of display (yes, that happened on our first child’s first birthday), we don’t order themed party favors in the mail months in advance. The best part is that our children don’t know that their birthday parties suck. They think they are so much fun. So, who are those elaborate overpriced birthday parties for anyway? Dare I say it? The parents! You thought it. I said it.

    We have set the bar low for birthday parties in our community. Our friends just need to show up and they will get fed, they can play on the playground and eat good cake. We provide some equipment for activities or arts and crafts for the kids. One year it was planting seeds, another it was a water balloon toss, you get the idea. We usually also have a piñata that we fill with organic candies and recycled toys (some collected from our house, some from friends’ homes. You should hear the kids saying ”We have this at home, Mommy”. They are still young enough not to figure it out). I should point out that we live in an affluent area where people spend excessive amounts of money on birthday parties. I have been to parties with choreographed music videos starring the kids, petting zoos in their backyards, cotton candy machines, some parties resembling mini county fairs. The children at these parties don’t get to interact much and usually seem overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of the party. The clear benefit I see is that when the child grows up they can look back at the photos and think, “My parents threw one heck of a party.” The pictures are great, I will give them that.

    Feeling guilty that I might be depriving my child of a “proper” birthday party, I felt the need to keep up with the Jones’s. So, one year we paid a lot of money for a party at an indoor facility. It was fine. Nothing more. The next year, my daughter wanted to have her party at the park again, just like her party the year before. Huh? I think she gets to actually play with her friends when they aren’t busy being entertained every minute. This year, she wants to have a pizza party at our house and watch a movie with her 6 closest friends. Phew!

    Recently we were invited to a birthday party at the local park. It was exactly like our birthday party the month prior at the park. The mom admitted that seeing how nice our party was, inspired her. The children had a great time. Some of the parents, however, seemed stunned at the simplicity of it all. I could tell they were looking around, wondering where the entertainment was, where was the party?! It took some of them a good half hour to relax and not look so shocked, finally parking their designer swathed behinds on the blankets on the grass.

    I hope to see more families joining us in our setting the bar low for parties. Call it the quest for meaningful and simple birthday parties honoring the child and their friendships