17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, April 30, 2007

From the Tales Inbox: The Boring Birthday Party

From our loyal reader and commentor, Cheryl

I know we have all discussed the matter of birthday parties, but since this experience for me is so recent, I'd like to re-visit the subject.

My oldest daughter (#1) turned six years old yesterday. Since it is an even birthday, she was allowed to have a friend birthday party (we do the every-other-year thing). It was exciting, because we just moved here about 7 weeks ago, and this was a great way to get to know some friends from school and church.

I'm a big fan of Birthday Express, and because there would be boys and girls at the party, #1 decided on a Sea theme; lots of fish, sea-stars, whales, dolphins, etc. Everything was delivered to our door and #1 was so excited to pass out the invitations with her dad. People were polite and everyone RSVP'd. This is how the party went:

Kids arrived and as we waited for everyone to get there they colored on these cool place mats with crossword puzzles, matching games, pictures, etc. We then played a game with fish bean bags --they had to throw them into a huge fish bowl (well, it looked like a fish bowl) from a distance and when they made three in a row, they got a bottle of bubbles. Of course, everyone made it eventually, and it was outside for bubble time. The kids seemed to really enjoy it (even though it was pretty cold and threatening rain). Then it was back inside for #1 to open presents. The kids were extremely generous (more so than I was anticipating) and even two gave her gift cards to stores. DH was late with the pizza, so I had the kids play some games and we sang some fun action songs (gotta love Primary music!) until he got there. They were laughing hysterically! I had the kids eat their pizza on the "beach" (blankets on the ground, basically). #1 blew out the candles on her fish cake (that I actually made! It was, well, shaped like a fish. Go figure.) and the kids got cake and ice-cream. Most chose the ice-cream cone route. Then parents started showing up (on time! I like that!) and when the kids left, they got a favor box with fun sea life goodies, the bubbles they chose, and one of the fish bean bags.

Sounds like a normal, simple birthday party, right?

Well, as the kids were waiting for parents (playing with #1's presents, eating cake, etc.) I asked the kids "Did you have a good time?" and about 4 or 5 of the 9 kids said "It was boring." At first I was taken aback. "Boring?" I asked. "Yeah, it
wasn't that fun." If it had been one child telling me this, I wouldn't have been concerned. But more than half the children were expressing themselves this way.

I tried to dismiss what the kids said, but the look on my daughter's face reflected what I was feeling. Boring? Not fun? Why did we go to all that trouble if you kids were just going to hate it? And why would these children say something so rude in front of their host? (okay, the answer to that is age. 5-year-olds aren't always polite).

Granted, I know they had all been to a birthday party two weeks ago at a local theme park. But still...doesn't anyone just throw simple birthday parties anymore?

So I ask you: Are our children too entertained? Do they expect too much? Are birthday parties getting out of control? Or should I have conformed and done something outrageous? And is this behavior common? I never experienced this in Utah. Simple parties were the norm; maybe it's just where I live now?


  • What the rock? I have a one year old daughter and we aren't even close to throwing parties. In fact, we are considering going the route of not doing 'friend' parties, but always throwing the child a very special party with just us family. Does anyone else do this? I know parents out there may think we are mean, but I hope we can make our children feel very special on their birthdays.
    posted by Anonymous Tally Girl at 4/30/2007 05:09:00 PM  

  • That sounds very similar to a party we just had for our 5 year old. We didn't even have a theme, just games, toys, an art activity, and food. I didn't *get* any negative feedback, and I enjoyed a go-with-the-flow kind of laid back party. ...and my daughter had a blast. (Of course, the younger siblings were invited to play downstairs with my younger daughter, and she is now looking forward to having an upstairs party and sending her sister and the older kids downstairs to play on her birthday)
    posted by Blogger Lucy at 4/30/2007 07:45:00 PM  

  • Sounds like a perfectly lovely (and reasonable!) party for a six year old.

    I do think a lot of parents over-do it- even the goodie bag thing has gotten out of control, imo. My kids are five, three and one, so we haven't really crossed this bridge yet.

    Call me a bad mom, but we only do family parties at this stage. If kids expect whistles and bells and big-bucks entertainment, I think I'll keep in family style, thanks.
    posted by Blogger tracy m at 4/30/2007 08:36:00 PM  

  • Are children too entertained? Yes. Kids seems to wait around for the fun instead of actively creating it themselves. This isn't just a result of overboard birthdays though.

    Do they expect too much? Yes and it only gets worse as they get older especially with MTV's "Sweet Sixteen" in constant play. Yikes!

    Are birthday parties getting out of control? Yes. And we only have the parents to blame.

    The questions is, how do we make it stop? I made a pact with a girl here in the ward to always keep our kids parties simple. You are all welcome to join us in our pact. But she's moving so we might very well be the only family that doesn't spring for a bounce house, pony rides or a wild animal petting zoo in the coming years.

    Here is what it could come down to though. I consider myself a pretty creative person and a person that is generally good with kids. I was a YMCA camp counselor in High school so I got some skeelz when it comes to keeping a group of kids busy for a couple of hours. And throwing kids parties is actually fun for me.

    For other parents, their skills might lie elsewhere and entertaining a group of small kids for a couple hours could be completely overwhelming and not in the least bit fun. Enter bounce house, magician or the popular destination party. I can't blame them. Every parent is looking for ways to de-stress their lives while still making their child feel special on their birthday. But I agree that some people go way to far and there are other ways to accomplish this goal.

    And FWIW, your party sounds perfect! If a kid told me it was boring I would have said "No it wasn't. You're boring!" Is that mean and childish or what?
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 4/30/2007 08:47:00 PM  

  • This was the first year we did friend-birthday parties (kids ages 7 & 6). We went the simple route like you, but EVERYONE here where we live either has an amazing kid-indoor-play center birthday party or better. (i.e., Marriot grande ballroom... Hilton poolside buffet...). At the very least, if it's a party at home, it's a pool party at their resort-like condo. We had a really good response with the simple stuff. Only 2 kids out of my sons party were totally disappointed because they thought they'd be swimming (we played on the lawn with a sprinkler, slip-n-slide and water balloons). One kid refused to join in because we weren't swimming in a pool, but, hey.

    I think kids are just too whacked out with over-the-top entertainment. It takes revolutionaries like us to put the universe back into it's proper order. Pin the tail on the donkey! Ice cream and cake for all!
    posted by Anonymous meems at 5/01/2007 03:11:00 AM  

  • Wow. I'm just so sorry you and your sweet 6 year old had to hear "boring" after so much work (and fun!). What a downer after a great party! Yes, kids that age are just honest, but I also think they should have more manners.

    Birthdays should be for making the child feel special and celebrated. Not for who can impress friends the most--especially by spending gobs of money. And yes, I think bday parties are way out of control. Go you for doing it at home!! And doing it yourself!

    I'm at at-home-partygiver and have one coming up this month. (We too are in a new place, so we'll see how it goes.) I will just let the kids go home without asking how they liked it--ignorance is bliss. :) Tell #1 the tales girls wish her a happy birthday!
    posted by Blogger Katie at 5/01/2007 05:30:00 AM  

  • ouch! yeah, 5/6-year olds are honest but i'd like to think that my 6-year old would have better manners than that. it's sounds like it was a great party. maybe it had something to do with the children not knowing you very well? next birthday will be more fun when #1 can choose guests that are truly her friends. and i'd follow a previous commenter's advice by not asking if they had fun! ignorance truly is bliss!
    posted by Blogger lainakay at 5/01/2007 05:50:00 AM  

  • Wow...this post makes me really fear when my kids get old enough to do friends parties.

    It DOES sound like a good party...maybe one of the kids said "boring" by instinct and the others echoed without thinking.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 5/01/2007 07:29:00 AM  

  • Jen-
    After talking it over, DH and I think that perhaps that might have happened--but we're not sure.

    I think I'll join that pact. Even thought the kids were disappointed, I don't think it's hurt my resolve to keep things fairly simple...and yes, I can totally see you saying "No, you're boring!" :) :)

    It could be that they didn't know us very well. I hadn't thought of that...

    I have to add something to this: Yesterday morning, when I was dropping #1 off at school, one of the moms who had been at the party said hello to me and then proceeded to tell the other moms(there was about 5 of us) that the party was "so fun!" She went on to talk about how it was like the parites we had when we were kids and how she loved it. I was shocked; her kid was one of the "this is boring!" kids. It made me feel great. But what's funny, is she is the mom who does big birthday parties, too. Weird...maybe it's like tftcarrie said? She has no time? But she doesn't work and she only has one child...? Yeah, that sounds judgemental...sorry. :( Anyways, regardless, it made me feel a bit better. :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/01/2007 09:11:00 AM  

  • I think your birthday party sounds like it was a lot of fun! My almost 7-year-old would have loved it. People around my area have both the simple and the extravagent birthday parties and the kids seem to really enjoy both. Could it have been that the first child said it was boring and the other kids agreed because they thought it would be a funny thing to say or wanted to seem "cool" like the 1st child?
    posted by Anonymous mkc at 5/01/2007 09:49:00 AM  

  • I think your party sounds great! Huge, out-of-control, expensive parties are a personal pet-peeve of mine. In our neighborhood, renting bouncy houses seems to be the norm. When my kids ask for one, I just tell them that's what we have great neighbors for--to mooch off their party fun!

    But seriously, my daughter attended a party a few weeks ago for her friend's 8th birthday. Her parents had rented a limo to take their daughter and friends to Build-a-Bear (where they each had $35 to spend) and then to lunch at a moderately priced restaurant (not $2.99 kids meals). And this family is not by any means "loaded". I don't get it.
    The girl's mother is a very good friend and neighbor and a good mom, too. She was very excited about the party because her daughter had "always wanted to ride in a limo." My first thought was, "Um...she's 8, she hasn't always wanted to do anything." My second thought was "Do we really need to fulfill our child's every fantasy?"
    posted by Blogger lbs at 5/01/2007 06:07:00 PM  

  • Limo!?!? Are you freaking kidding me?

    Well, that's what I thought as I read that...

    Seriously, that's crazy. Perhaps people are compensating for lack of birthday bliss in their own childhood...?
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/01/2007 06:51:00 PM  

  • Limo!?!? Are you freaking kidding me?

    Actually, THAT was my first thought. Thanks for validating my feelings! :) I still haven't quite gotten over it.
    posted by Blogger lbs at 5/01/2007 08:13:00 PM  

  • OI! A limo?? Did you tell that Mom that her daughter will probably get to ride in a limo for her junior prom or say... her wedding? Some things we need to wait for. I worry about fulfilling children's desires so early. What's left to look forward to? There's a proper time for all the fun stuff and it's not necessarily wise to jam it all into their 8th birthday party!?! This mom is seriously upping the ante for future special events... is she ready for the repercussions?
    posted by Blogger lainakay at 5/02/2007 01:32:00 PM  

  • i don't think i rode in a limo until i was 20. and it was for a funeral.
    posted by Blogger brenbot at 5/03/2007 04:36:00 PM  

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