Sunday, April 3, 2011

Birthday Party Paranoia

So far, I've organised three birthday parties for my children. We invited quite a few people to the ones in Palembang but I would still classify them as simple, traditional, kids birthday parties. I didn't spend an exorbitant amount of money on them and we played games like pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs - games I remember from my early birthdays. The party we had for Adrian last year was also a simple one with home cooked food and a few family friends.

Since Aaron started making new friends this year, I have been getting a little paranoid about birthday parties. Both the possibility of him being invited to one and also the expectation that he might develop to have one when his birthday comes round. My irrational fear was spawned from reading several articles about how elaborate kids birthday parties have become - themes, invited entertainers, rented playground equipment etc etc etc. I know not all are like this but it still made me partially hope that Aaron wouldn't get invited to any - yes, mean and selfish of me. What if he did get invited to some super duper, fancy schmancy, party and then expect that all parties, including his own, are that way?

Well, the day has come - he received an invite last week. I guess its good in a way so that I'll know what the reality is like instead of letting my imagination carry me away.

The invitation has opened up a new challenge for me though. I told Aaron that when you go to somebody's birthday party, you have to bring a gift. He said "Of course I know that! Maybe I can buy him a little car."

The background to the little car is this : Several months ago, Aaron used some of his own money, $2, to buy a little plastic police car. The money he has is from coins that he sometimes finds around the house. I haven't started the whole pocket money thing yet.

Anyway, the point is that he very honestly and generously intends to use his own money to buy something that he, as a four year old, can afford. He didn't even have any expectation that I would buy a present for his friend.

I like that. And I haven't said anything to him about it yet.

The problem is, I'm not sure how much his friend or his friends parents are going to like it when they unwrap a $2 plastic car present.

If only all the other kids would do the same thing. Just take a look at this list of lessons that can be taught from it :

1) Children learn the value of money.
2) Children learn to save.
3) Children may learn to give a hand made gift instead of a store bought one.
4) Children learn the joy of giving - I don't think it has the same effect if mom bought the present.
4) Birthday child stays grounded because the gifts are probably going to be simpler.
5) Birthday child may learn that the fun of the birthday party is more in the shared time with friends.

I'm going to go ahead and let Aaron buy a gift with his own money but I definitely feel the (peer parent) pressure to top it up with a second gift just so we don't look cheap. But really, why do I need to? The party is a month away and if I come up with something that will be appreciated that can also be made by Aaron (and me), I might go with that.

*sigh* Mountain out of a mole hill here!

p.s. My next post will probably not be until next week sometime. We're all going to Sydney for the week. Holiday!!


Mike said...

There's too much logic in your list. Emotion trumps logic every time. Buy the extra gift even though the kid will probably like the car better.

"about how elaborate" - So I guess you won't be sending Bilbo and me those round trip tickets to Aarons' next birthday party.

Bilbo said...

I had forgotten how big a deal children's birthday parties can be until I saw my daughter cope with the large number of party invitations from Leya's school and play friends. It definitely runs into money after a while. I like your thinking about allowing Aaron to buy gifts with his own money, but I think you're right about how high the expectation bar has been set nowadays. Good luck.