The birthday party rant

I’m betting I’m not alone in this, so feel free to give me your 2 cents.

Birthday parties drive me nuts! These kid parties are out of control.

Now let me preface this rant by saying, I love throwing birthday parties, I love everything birthday! I think it’s a great opportunity to celebrate. That’s not the problem. It’s the insanity that has started to swirl around the birthday party expectations that’s making my head hurt.


The presents:

I have a $25 limit on birthday presents. I like my kids to pick out their own gifts, since they know what their friends like. I actually take the time to have my kids add stickers, make cards, draw on the paper and have some fun with it – as long as I’ve remembered before the party and am not racing across town to try to get them there on time and whipping into the local toystore last minute (thank goodness they offer free gift-wrapping services!!).

But I’ve got 2 kids. They’re well liked and get invited to a lot of birthdays. We’ve had weekends where there are two birthday parties for each kid. $100 in presents, and that’s not the only parties they’ll have that month. It gets EXPENSIVE! People complain about the cost of daycare, the cost of diapers, well here I am to add birthday gifts to that list! Never mind that my weekends are not my own.

I kind of like these new ‘group gift’ sites that handle the guestlist. There’s one that is used pretty commonly around here, where the child receives money and splits it between a specific present they’re saving for and a charity of their choice. So instead of 25 Lego sets the kid can buy a bike and donate to the local animal rescue. You just transfer the cash right then and there while you’re RSVPing and you’re done.

I don’t love the ‘expectation’ of gift giving, even though it absolutely is an expectation, but it’s organized and easy and so I’m good with this.

The venues:

I feel lucky that my kids are spring and summer babies, I can have parties outdoors. Living in the city, I have a small house that doesn’t easily accommodate more than 5 kids at a time. I feel they won’t remember specific gifts, but they will remember the big, fun parties, so I try to throw them at a community centre party room or the big park at the end of the street. I like to invite the whole class and always offer that siblings are welcome. I find it no trouble at all to bake up a few extra cupcakes and make it fun for all.

I can’t understand some of the venues in the city. I just can’t justify $500, $600, $800 on a kid’s birthday party! It’s not even so much about the money (although I think that is steep!), it’s about the expectations we’re creating for our kids. With a small home, I get it. We need to find a venue, and frankly, it’s pretty sweet to be able to pack up and leave the mess for someone else to clean up, but the aquarium, science centre, museum – these ‘high-end’ party venues don’t make sense to me. The guest list is extremely small, the cost per child very high and then, it seems, there’s a need to outdo other parties, or ‘better than last year’ even.

SMDH. They’re 6, they don’t even know.


The birthday child:

These big venues, the big productions, this can be a bit overwhelming to the birthday child. Know what I hate the most though?

All of the presents.

In years past I tried “your presence is presents enough” type cuteness for No Gifts Please, but they got gifts anyways. And the kids want gifts. My husband pointed out that it was all part of the party expectations for our children. That they would be sad to have all their gifts taken away. Instead, they open them up slowly, over the following few weeks, and enjoy them one at a time – instead of opening them all at once and being overwhelmed and undergrateful.

And all of the gifts – they have enough toys. As much as I LOOOOOOVE Lego, superheroes, trucks, Skylanders and Transformers, they have enough. We tried the “one in, one out” method, but it was painful. We’ve asked them to donate, but I don’t think they’re quite ready for that yet, last year my older one was so stressed out about having to pick what to give away and not enjoy that I quickly put the kybosh on that idea. Why have a party if it’s going to stress your kid out?

The invitations:

I love designing their invitations. I have them printed up at the local copy store and even though I get rave compliments – and offer to do them for other mamas – they’re actually cheaper than buying invites. Especially when you’re handing out 30-40 of them. (Or 60 – like last year, when instead of giving them out to the daycare and the class, Urban Suburban Daddy misunderstood my instructions and stuffed them into all of the daycare cubbies of the other two classes. So we had 3 daycare classes, a school class plus siblings. Lesson learned.)

I also email the invitations to all of the parents. I never know if the kids get them home or not. My son occasionally gives me an invite a few days after a party has already happened.

The politics & the fallout:

“I invited him but he didn’t invite me.”

“I wanted to sit next to the birthday girl.”

“I wanted the piece of cake with the blue rose.”


Seriously. Sit back at a birthday party and notice how many little squabbles occur over the course of the 2.5 hours. Kids have developed these crazy expectations and are indulged in ways they can’t manage. They are fed junk food and sugared up, and then sent home to mama a very wired, hot mess.

Is it a drop-off party? Do I stay? Do I go? What do I do with my other child if it’s not a drop-off party and numbers are a big deal? I’ve tried to pay for my other child, I’ve tried to find another parent who can take mine. I’ve tried to understand why my son would sooner give up his XBOX than miss a birthday party. It’s a social standing and a testament of friendship – plus they get to do all kinds of cool stuff, from circus classes to science experiments, to being taught how to make pizza.

I have no idea what the solution is, but I feel much better getting that off of my chest!

Suburban Mommy Michelle adds: My son just recently started JK and I too feel like I have now become part of the birthday turbine.  In fact, I do remember dropping a pretty penny on my son’s last 4 birthdays.  In fact, for what I spent on his 1st birthday party, our family could have enjoyed a vacation instead!  Our second is born in the summer, so hoping this helps with eliminating some costs on venue.  I do agree that birthdays are out of control – now that I think of it – so is every holiday.  We have become such a commercial society.  Perhaps instead of presents this year, I will ask if parents minded chipping in for things like daycare, diapers, get the drill.



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