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When did it become imperative that every child should have a birthday party every year? Honestly, some marketing genius started a campaign to guilt parents into giving their children a full blown birthday party EVERY year.  When I was growing up in the 70’s, milestone birthday parties were the rage if you were good and your parents had a nice stash of cash to blow on a clown, magician, cake, and party favors.  Birthdays were small celebrations with family and a close friend or two.  Mom would bake a 1/4 sheet cake or buy one from the bakery.  Birthdays were not a big fuss.  Sometime during the 80’s birthday parties became a big to-do.

As a teacher in the 90’s, I remember parents asking me weeks in advance if they could bring cupcakes to the classroom.  This perfect party was genius.  The child’s friends were in the class.  The parent didn’t have to worry about getting their house dirty while making their child feel special.  Yes, this kind of party took valuable time away from my teaching, but I made allowances if I had plenty of notice.

Toward the end of the 90’s kids’ parties became larger affairs.  Places like Chuck E. Cheese became the defacto party spot.  Instead of taking off from work, parents could plan the party for the weekend at a place that kept the party mess away from the home for a nominal fee.  Then suddenly parents were out party planning each other.  The parties got bigger, parents were giving out expensive party bags with toys to the guests, and high priced entertainment became the rage.  I’ve been to parties where the entertainment was to name a few:

  • clown
  • pony
  • licensed Disney character
  • portable laser tag vehicle
  • video game truck
  • trampoline venue
  • bouncy houses
  • movie theater
  • train

It felt like every month there was another fancy birthday to attend.  As  guests, I’m hyper-aware that the party was expensive, so I would shop for a gift or gift card that will work as a price for admission to the party.  My boys would be thrilled to go to the party while I would dread it.  I hated having to go to a party where the noise is loud, the pace is frantic, and I’m forced to make small talk with people I do not know very well or have little in common. Birthday parties became a special kind of hell.

Lately, the etiquette for birthday parties in my homeschool community has become non-existent.  I have received a loosely worded text a couple of weeks before the party with the details.  I have gotten a word-of-mouth invite with no follow-through from one mom with a short attention span which disappointed my boys and her son because she “forgot” to send me a Facebook invite with the pertinent details.  And tonight I received a group email from a mom who is making park day in 2 days a birthday party for her son.  TWO DAYS! She’s giving the parents 2 days notice on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year for a birthday party.

Why?

When was the mandate passed that we must give our children a birthday party? And this imagined mandate is making parents appear self-centered or neglectful.  This particular parent is known for giving her children fantastic parties with well-thought out themes. This off-handed invite two days before the day is negligent.  It appears that she’s mailing it in so she could check the box to say she gave her child a party.

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