Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Great Birthday Party Debate

To party or not to party, that is the question. My baby boy turns 4 tomorrow. : ... 0) Every time the kids have another birthday in this house I go through the "great birthday debate" in my mind. For both of the kid's first birthdays we had what I considered big parties, inviting family and a few friends. I made copious amounts of food and decorated a fancy cake. Brenna's second I did another party. Since then we have forgone the large parties at home. We have just had low-key celebrations here at home, sometimes family members have been involved, if they were visiting, sometimes we have had a small party at the grandparents if we were visiting them. Most of our family lives a good 3.5 -4 hour drive from us north and south, so arranging a party takes a good bit of schedule wrangling.

We enjoy our immediate family celebrations, but sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough. I realize that this is somewhat cultural and peer pressure related, seeing how many family and friends do opt for the "bigger" parties for their children each year. The big parties just really aren't our style, for the following reasons. First of all I was never given a birthday party as a child (not whining, just statin' facts) so the whole concept is really foreign to me. I was made my favorite meal, a cake and got an Easter dress every year (gotta love having your b-day so close to a holiday!) My mom was not an entertainer, we very rarely had anyone over to our house for a meal, I only remember a handful of times where my family members, some only lived .25 miles away, came to our home to eat. Everything I learned about putting on a party came from my mother-in-law, who raising 4 kids in a large extended Catholic family had to be able to put on a big feed and help with big parties. If they just had the cousins that made for a huge party!
Another reason I am not inclined towards the parties is disdain of materialism. You may have noticed that our culture and the individuals that comprise it have a horrible case of "stuffitis" Don't get me wrong, I like "stuff" myself, but I really try to keep it to a minimum. Stuffitis is causing a lot of problems in our country with the environment, economy (hello recession!) and general well being of our citizens. At many of these parties I see kids get scads of crap they don't need or really want, then we wonder why they are ungrateful. They have everything they could possibly dream of and are still unhappy. I won't go into the spiritual ramifications here but there are several. I don't want my kids to think just because it's their birthday that they should be given tons of stuff. And I really don't want my children to grow up to be narcissists just because I had to show them how very "special" they are. Yes they are special, but so is everyone, so maybe then we aren't special at all. We are all loved, and I choose to show them that, and that requires no stuff at all.

All this isn't to say we may not have a big party for the kids every once in awhile, we may. But maybe we'll forgo presents in lieu of donations to a charity, like my niece did one year (she's awesome!) or maybe do a volunteering birthday. What a concept, to give rather than receive on your birthday! Which in reality you still receive an wonderful, albeit intangible, blessing. Right now I think my children are a little young for either, but soon. So we will have another immediate family party this year, Brayden wants a Dog Party. And it will be enjoyable, low-key and peaceful.

Don't think I look down on anyone who has big parties for their kids, I don't. Everyone has their own beliefs about everything and I am open and accepting everyone's personal choices. I rather enjoy going and hanging out at other folks homes and gettin' a little cake and ice cream! It is fun to see the kids running around and having fun together. Are we missing out on this? I don't know, but for now that's just not how I want to do things, maybe I'll change my ideas on this, who knows. I've learned enough by now to never say never.

I will post some Brady birthday pics tomorrow. Jeremy is almost done with his bookshelf, and it is a beut, ya'll! I decided he also needed a little something to open so I went an picked a little something up at the local toy store yesterday.

What are your birthday party philosophies??


Brook said...

Amen sister!

I am having the same feelings running through my head at the moment with Lily's 1st birthday approaching. For her first birthday at least, we are going to go low key. Just a little family party. When she is older, we'll probably have kid parties. I always loved birthday parties as a child. The best part was having all my friends together at one time and playing games. You know, I don't even remember getting presents. That wasn't the fun part. The games were what I remember.

I love the alternative gift suggestions you provided (making donations, etc). What a great idea! Having excessive toys is such a waste of money and natural resources. Of course, all kids need toys. I'm not a total Grinch! It just seems that in our current culture, MORE is always better. I don't believe that.

You are a great mom and always such an inspiration to me in how I want to raise my children. Love ya girl!

Alexis Heimansohn said...

I second that! We never had big birthday parties either. Although, on my fourteenth b-day my Ma had a Barbie spoof party for me, since I never had a barbie doll. My brother had a camping party one year without any gifts. It was awesome. My parents got us a unicycle one year and a trampoline another. A lot of the time it wasn't even on our birthday, so we were even more surprised when we walked out in the yard and there sat a trampoline for us! Of course your kids are special, everyone's are, but lets face it, everybody has a birthday.

alexis heimansohn said...

Oh my gosh, I cannot believe I forgot to mention my 18th b-day. My Pop's and I went skydiving!!! Really to me it's all about making memories and not so much "gettin stuff".

Virginia said...

We will do birthday parties for our little boy as I look back on my childhood and remember them fondly. Best bit was getting a nice cake that my mum had made, and blowing out the candles. Oliver will get presents, but nothing grand and nothing he doesn't need. I remember the excitement of getting to open presents when I was smaller and would like him to have the same experience. But when I was growing up, much of my play focussed on things like craftwork, and making our own toys out of things we found around the house and I'd like to emulate that with him as much as I can. I can't wait until he's old enough so that we can knit together, do macrame, make cakes, make forts out of cardboard boxes and all that sort of thing. At the moment we're making rattles out of pasta and tuppaware containers and they're going down a storm so looks like he's going to enjoy the same sorts of things like I did :)