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Birthday parties with preschoolers

Posted by Kristen on October 20, 2008 at 7:00 AM in Kristen
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800px-InflatableBalloons.jpgToday I went to a birthday party for Ethan's best friend Harrison. It was a soccer party at a sports complex complete with a sixteen-year-old referee named Marshall and red punch and pizza. I dragged my husband along and he stood in the middle of the indoor field with Ethan while Ethan cried about trying to kick the ball but missing. It was awesome.

I got lucky. 20-month-old Nathan was invited to come but the rules of the complex said he couldn't play. There were lots of halls to run down so it wasn't like he would be forced to watch while strapped into a stroller or something. Luckily Marshall didn't seem overly concerned about either his job security or legal ramifications because he let the baby play on the field. Me? I sat on the sidelines on the ground with the rest of the parents and gossiped about absolutely nothing interesting. In the party department, I was lucky.

Just a few days ago my friend Devan was telling me she had to take her daughter to a birthday party. Her daughter is four, so I guess that technically she is supposed to stay with her during the party. But siblings aren't necessarily invited and her husband will be working. Actually, Devan hadn't even contemplated if the two-year-old was invited to the party too. Devan said that if the younger one couldn't stay, she would just leave with her.

I could tell that Devan was new to this whole thing. Clearly she hadn't heard the stories of a birthday boy's mother chasing another mother out to the car to tell her she couldn't leave her four-year-old but could she keep the two-year-old in the dining room away from the party? Or the mom who walked into the party with her baby only to find that all the other parents had hired babysitters for their extraneous children.

At Harrison's party, it was clear that siblings were invited. In Devan's case, it's not very clear. No one wants to be the person going against whatever is intended, but it seems like the lines have gotten fuzzy and there is no rulebook. Parties these days can cost a lot of money and sometimes a parent doesn't want to foot the bill for every family of four. And if you fall into that trap of inviting the whole preschool class of fourteen, now you are talking a very big party. But your child is only four. And isn't it just a party? What's your party policy at your house? Or even better, what's your party horror story?


Naomi writes...

We like family parties ... invite friends, but invite the entire family.

We don't invite entire classes, nor do we do drop-offs (yikes!).

My rulebook?

1. You dont have to accept every invitation to every party
2. Make your invite clear. If you don't want younger siblings, be brave enough to JUST SAY SO.
3. Let's start doing "gifts from the dollar store" ... or better yet, have the child choose a local charity ... we have started saying "no gifts please" cuz it's getting out of control.

(oh dear, I'd better stop while I'm ahead .... can you tell I have an irk with children's birthday parties?

patience writes...

I think parties have become way too big and too much. Remember the days when your mom made your favorite dinner, grandparents came, the table was set with pretty decorations and flowers and a few presents?

Of course this could be my own parent justification for downsizing my own kid's birthdays as a result of years of kid birthday party hell.

Who knows what to do? We usually assume only the peer age child is invited and find a way for one of us to go w/him or her. If we can't, we just politely decline.

Really close friends usually invite all our kids anyway so thankfully we are spared from the birthday sibling juggle.

Anne writes...

I agree with Patience. Birthday parties have gotten out of control! Limousines at 8th grade dances are another one of those things that drive me crazy. Keep the party simple, family, close friends. We usually invite the number of children to correspond to the birthday age. And if a mom needs to bring the siblings, maybe she just needs to bring the siblings. I would never want to make a mom feel guilty about that.

Liz K writes...

I agree that kids' birthday parties are a little outsized and out of whack. My philosophy is that I want it to be about the birthday child, to celebrate them in the place where they are loved the most, with the people who love them the most and the people they most like. Birthday parties then are about relationships, those people who really care about you, not about getting a lot of gifts. This keeps the parties small, at home, and all about the kid, not about providing an entertainment extravaganza for the whole class or a social event for the parents. It has the added bonus of keeping the number of gifts low. Admittedly, this suits my children's personalities as well, as they are more comfortable in smaller settings and are used to my "keep it simple/less is more" approach to family life.

I do encourage other parents to drop off. Since we keep them small, and have additional adults, like grandparents, aunts & uncles around to help supervise, they are usually OK with leaving. Of course, if a child is reluctant for the parent to go, we welcome them with open arms. Parents who are close friends often stay too, but I'd prefer not to have to host parents and younger siblings at a party meant to be intimate and meaningful for my child.

My kids were very comfortable about being dropped off at a party, so from the time they were about 4, so I would ask the parent when I RSVPed if they would rather I stay or could I go. If they wanted me to stay, I would, but most of the time, they said to go ahead and leave, so I did. I was sure to leave a cell phone number, and I always arrived well before pick-up time. Most of the time, I was the ONLY ONE who left, but I took the host-Mother at her word, and didn't much care what they other Moms thought.

treen writes...

We don't have drop-off situations yet because our preschool gang is only 2 and 3 years old. But we keep it easy with either just going to the park and having cupcakes and some other snacks. The kids have room to run and can make all the noise they want, and the whole family is welcome. No big theatrics, small gift bags if any at all, no organized activities ... it works for us!

Sky writes...

Oh me oh my...

When Johnny was in Kindergarten I invited his entire class to come over for his birthday party. Never, never again I say. To start with, I was really sick that year...and that weekend had a double ear infection, so my head just wanted to explode. Did I mention that John's birthday is in December.

So anyway, I had one parent bring 2 year old brother and leave him so Dad and Mom could go out for a peaceful lunch. I almost wrote out a babysitting bill for the little one. He cried the entire time because he didn't know us!

It was enough to take the cake. LOL, now I might spend a little more on parties, but I'll never have them at the house again!

jen writes...

My daughter will be 3 on Friday. This is a crazy week for us...we are moving on her birthday. So we decided--no party -we will have our close friends over and eat cake and ice cream. Fun. I am ok with it...but, why oh why do other family members feel the need to try to make me feel guilty about not having a big party. I see some of the parties that are happening at 3 and wonder, what will they do when they turn 6! Here is to keeping it all simple and simply celebrating the babes we love!!

Monica writes...

Kids birthday parties are an absolute Hell these days. I would rather get a root canal operation that have to host another one of these awful events. They are way too big, way too complex , too expensive and just plain horrible for the hosts.

We once allowed our 6 year old to invite 'whomever he wanted', maxumum 10. Well, on the day about 20 showed up, aged from 4 - 6. A few of them were absolute 'demon' children that need a tazer jolt to get them to shut up for more than one minute. Our lovely house was trashed, broken dishes, furniture, cake mashed into the couch, cookies thrown all over the place, garbage everywhere. After that, we made a new rule. NO Kids Birthday Parties at our Home ever again!.

Now we take all the little monsters to a place called 'fun land' where for $50 you can rent a crappy room near a lazer tag place and let them trash it, then walk away. No driving anyone home, no dealing with all the problems. If the little bastards don't like it, tough. "I suppose you don't remember mashing oreo cookies into our toaster when you were at our home last time do you" (you little bastard). Sorry, this birthday thing has gotten out of hand. Just say 'NO' and break this absurd trend for 'more more more' every single year.

At home we now have our own family birthday, which is OK. But hosting a kiddie birthday party TOTALLY SUCKS. Never again!

wooden trunk writes...

it's really exciting.

Tentes writes...

Kids parties are complicated to say the least, but if you have someone taking pictures it is well worth the memories.

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