Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Birthday Party Circuit

It seems as if all I do on Saturdays is go to birthday parties. Often, like today, I have multiple parties, either stacked up, overlapping or weaving in and out of one another. Jay works most Saturdays, so the pleasure of administrating all this is solely mine.

It is rare that all of my children are invited to any one party. Figuring out who goes where at what time, whether or not they can be dropped off and picked up later, and what present goes with what child is a social jigsaw puzzle. How often I have found myself at Chuck E. Cheese entertaining the "non-invitees" at a table a discreet distance away from the birthday revelers, doling out tokens to ensure no one feels left out because they don't get a goody bag.

I don't relish this part of my life, but have not yet figured out how to gracefully extract myself from it. With so many children, there are a LOT of birthday parties to go to. I confess that at times I have simply not mentioned the arrival of an invitation, only to be found out later because kids talk. My kids have come home from preschool in tears because they didn't go to so-and-so's party and everyone else was there, blah, blah, blah. This is hard to see. So, off I go on the birthday party circuit every Saturday, muttering under my breath and trying to remember that cheerfully serving my children is a joy to God.

Most mothers of large families I know homeschool, so this is less of a problem for them. The majority of party invitations come through school, and with four children in two different schools, we are exposed to nearly 100 potential partiers each year. This, alone, might be reason to consider homeschooling (another topic for another day, that is).

Week after week we sit there, the other mothers and I, while our children engage in essentially the same party, the same activities, and often in the same locations. We rate the food, the cake, the goody bags. Our own party bars are raised and lowered by the efforts of other parents.

When did this sneak into our culture, this endless parade of narcissistic celebrations? It's all well and good for children to feel special on their birthdays and to celebrate the day they were born, but we have created a monster. The pressure is high for "magical", "one-of-a-kind", over the top parties that ultimately leave kids feeling dissatisfied because they weren't perfect or sustainable. Shouldn't birthdays be more about gratitude for this gift of life we have received? Where is the balance between having a fun celebration for our kids and turning them all, guests included, into pulsating balls of greed?

I'll let you know when I figure it out. If any of you already have it figured out, please share! Until then, I have some RSVPing to do.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I am mom to 4 kids - 10, 8, 5, 20 mo - and one due in July. I decided about a year ago to respectfully decline all birthday parties. I told our kids that birthdays are celebrations for families. They don't seem to mind yet. I came to this decision after seeing all the junk toys that my kids never play with accumulating in their rooms, and seeing all the junk toys that all kids receive at these birthday parties. I really think we are sending the wrong message! I have thought about trying a "donation" birthday party, where all the kids bring a donation gift to the poor kids. We haven't seemed to manage this yet, as any birthday party is also a lot of work! I can't think of a better way to celebrate one's birthday, than to help out kids who don't have much! This is similar to Christmas!

God Bless,