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Should we do away with kiddie birthday parties?

Five days to go till my boys’ big day. The goodie bags are filled but there is still a cake to bake. I’m glad my boys opted for an indoor play hall as venue. At least I don’t have to worry about the entertainment. I’m also glad that I have to do this only once a year for my two boys – one of the perks of being a mom of twins. Am I in stress? Not really. Everybody’s looking forward to it, actually. Play, eat and play. Three hours of pure fun.

However, it seems that for some parents, preparing a birthday party for kids is kind of stressful. But is it fair to describe the kiddie birthday party “the deepest inner circle of parenting hell” and call for its outright banning? In an article on Reuters Life! earlier this month, Christopher Noxon calls for parents to unite and do away with birthday party blowouts.

He claims that children nowadays are overindulged and are getting more and more difficult to please. Every year, the birthday parties get more and more lavish and the kids expect more and more. The result is insanity for parents as well for the kids, as everybody tries to outdo everybody in having the coolest party. I found this very sad and shocking, and I think he has a point there. But outright banning of birthday parties?

A group of parents and professionals in St. Paul, Minnesota organized a group that advocates “Birthdays Without Pressure.” In there website they list examples of kiddie parties that are a quite over the top – from week-long parties with rented wild animals, to those which cost millions of dollars, to those which cause Mommy to have a nervous breakdown. They also cite the reasons why parties have gone out of control (MTVs’ “My Super Sweet 16“!!!) and what are the alternatives.

My boys (alone or both) have been to 4 different parties since April and I am glad to say that all the parties were down-to-earth and easy going.

On the average, they lasted for 2.5 hours, with a maximum of 15 children. Cake and fruit drinks are the normal fare – no more, no less. Moms and Dads have the option to stay or stay away. Most of the time, we stay away. Kids’ parties are for kids – unless the mom of the bday child is a good friend who might need a hand. At pick up time, we always thank the parents for “babysitting” for a couple of hours. And we make sure we return the favor.

My boys love these birthday parties and they always have lots of fun. I have never heard them (or of any kid in our circle, for that matter) complaining about the quality of the party, the gifts, and the goody bags.

I got to wonder: are these “pressure parties” described in the site typically American or are we not just part of the “in” crowd in our city of residence (Zurich)? If so, I wouldn’t care to part of that crowd anyway.

Christopher Noxon says that in the end, the kids are not to blame but the adults themselves. I think he is right. If we drive ourselves to a nervous breakdown and bankruptcy for a kiddie party, then there is really something wrong with us and our society.

So how do you celebrate your kids’ birthday? Do you feel “pressured” to compete

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