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Telling Tales: Parties: Wake up and smell the butter cream

Becky Andrews and Angel Kane • Updated Mar 11, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Not long ago, it was a laid-back acknowledgement of one’s entry into this world with close family. A birthday party has now turned into weeks and sometimes months of planning, an endless guest list and goodie bags that put Oscar swag bags to shame. 

The birthday party our generation grew accustomed to has gone by the way of Beanies Babies. And if you didn’t already know, the birth “day” is no longer a one-day event. This “day” can stretch into a weeklong celebration, turning a 5 year old’s simple shindig into something that rivals Mardi Gras.

Like many mothers, I balked at some of the wild displays of “over-the-top” birthday parties we attended or heard about. In an effort to show my defiance, I skipped on Martha Stewart Living: Children’s Birthday Party Edition in favor of 101 Ways to Lose Weight without diet or exercise. 

I promised the only money I would spend on a birthday for my children would be on a savings bond. Then I met my competition, i.e. the other mothers. The other mothers – if you didn’t already know – are the moms who set the bar for everything child related. While I’ve always loathed these perky perfectionists with their professional planners, engraved invites and multi-tiered cakes, I secretly desired a spot on their approval list.

A few years ago, after I spent a king’s ransom and some mental clarity on my oldest child’s birthday party, the tides magically shifted. On our way home from the celebration, my dear sweet little boy turned to me and said, “So, what did you and daddy get me for my birthday?” Before I could say, “You little ingrate. Do you know what this party cost?” I snapped out of my butter cream-infused stupor and back into reality – where a child’s birthday party needs a professional planner like my husband needs a new power tool. We explained his party was the present. He looked at us with those big, blue eyes, and with all the wisdom his 7 years could gather, said, “I’d rather have the present.”

It’s time for parents to wake up. Before paying the “professionals” at Libby Lu hundreds of dollars to transform your 6 year old and all her friends into pint-size prostitutes for her birthday, letting the staff at Build-A-Bear talk you into stuffing the inaugural “Arbor Day” bear or reserving a limousine to haul your 10 year old and 20 or 30 of her closest friends downtown, it may be time to re-evaluate...yourself. This overindulgence is having a rippling effect on our children. They don’t just expect food, clothing and shelter anymore. They now expect a birthday party with a budget that rivals a small wedding.

Because I’ve changed my mind about how we celebrate my child’s birthdays, everything is better. When it rolls around, my palms don’t sweat, and I almost never feel the onset of a migraine. 

Instead, I order a cake, we only invite close friends and forgo the goody bags. And someday when my children have children of their own, they can regale them with stories of how hard it was to have just two birthday parties instead of the eight their children request. 

To be clear, just because I’ve opted to downscale our parties doesn’t mean we won’t happily participate in our friend’s “over-the-top” parties.

Comments? You can email Becky Andrews at tellingtales@lebanondemocrat.com. Andrews and Angel Kane are the brains behind Telling Tales, a weekly column in The Democrat.

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