Attack of the birthday parties

Apparently age four is when the birthday parties start.  Little Boy isn’t four yet, but his preschool classmates are starting to hit that milestone.  In the past few months, we’ve received seven party invitations, including two on the same weekend.  (Two in one weekend was too much for me; we attended one and politely declined the other.)  The parties we’ve attended so far follow the same basic pattern: an hour or two of play in a kid-friendly space, then pizza, then cake.

There’s a lot of good about these parties.  Little Boy loves them.  He loves seeing his friends; he loves getting to run and jump and climb in new spaces with new, exciting equipment; he loves eating pizza and cake.  He has so much fun.  Meanwhile, I’ve had the chance to connect with some of the other preschool parents.  It’s nice.

Sometimes, though, I feel like I’m on the edge of a slightly foreign subculture.  The other parents chat about their kids’ gymnastics lessons and other organized activities.  They compare notes on kindergartens—charter, private, Montessori.  (When did “not public” became the default choice for school?)  They drink LaCroix.  It all seems just a tad more aspirational, just a tiny bit up the social ladder.

I don’t know what we’re going to do for Little Boy’s birthday.  I can’t see us spending several hundred dollars on a party space (not counting food and favors), and our house won’t hold a whole class of preschoolers.  We might be able to make something work in the local park, but weather makes that unlikely.  Most likely we’ll have to do something like we did for his third birthday, a low-key gathering with just a couple of kids.  Another in a long line of should I be doing more for this? decisions as a parent.

Anyone else in the “so many birthday parties” phase?

11 thoughts on “Attack of the birthday parties

  1. It depends a little on what time of year but we’ve done birthday parties at home (pizza, movie) and our kids have been to all kinds of activities for birthday parties. Science center was an awesome one. Cheaper are a treasure hunt through a public park. Icesxating happened one year. And rollers sting more recently. Our daughter went to one where they just had a slip n slide and some games. Great fun. A thing that I really had to get used to was the fact the parents stayed the whole time here. Not so in the Netherlands. Those sometime came with Car service (by hosting parent). Oh and pancake bake and decorate was a hit one year.

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  2. No mass of birthday parties yet, but my kid’s new day care is in a rich part of town, so I’m expecting to several rungs down on the social ladder.

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  3. I waited until child #1 was 5 years old before I did anything more than bring a special snack to school (except for a first birthday party with family). She never knew the difference. With child #2 we knew more people, so I wound up having a small 2nd birthday party and then a fairly large 3rd birthday party. I enjoy getting the kids together with their friends, preferably at a park, although we’ve done other places as well.

    In retrospect, I wish I HAD gotten the kids involved in organized activities at a younger age. It seemed silly at the time to have a 3-year-old in extracurricular activities, but I think it can give them the advantage of being generally experienced in and comfortable with the idea. Plus, if there is an activity that you yourself really like, getting them into it before they’re old enough to realize anything else will give you a hand up. My firstborn tells me she would be more into physical activities like dancing and gymnastics if she weren’t self-conscious about being behind her age group that has been doing them since age 3.

    My kids both go to public school, though, and always will unless something truly unexpected and dramatic happens. Screw the haters! Education is for EVERYONE.

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    • I feel like dance and gymnastics (and figure skating) are particularly bad for that, because girls/women are expected to peak so early. I did ballet at ages 5–7, then stopped because they wanted us to get serious and there was no “I just want to do this for fun” option. (Plus it was already obvious that I was not built to be a ballerina.)

      We’ve got Little Boy doing some running with us and at family events with my wife’s running group, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that he enjoys running in the long term.

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      • Where I live, a lot of it has to do with the child’s willingness to go along with it just for the fun without insisting on being the best person in the class. This is a personality difference between my intense first-born and my laid-back little one. Not saying my little one never gets frustrated, but at least she doesn’t get disillusioned (or hasn’t yet).

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  4. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get better when they become school age. My 7-year-old has had a slew of parties pop up recently and we are already busy with other things that we can’t attend. I agree 100% about the “on the edge” of things while there. There isn’t a perfect answer; do you pretend to be interested so that you don’t seem too stuck up? Or do you just focus on your kid all of the time? It DOES get better because as they get older, you can drop off and it’s AMAZING!

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  5. DC2 hasn’t had so much birthday party circuiting compared to DC1. I don’t know why– it mainly just seems to be different cultures of the various places they went to daycare and elementary school. Our gift present closet (where we put the excess in-law presents) is way overfull. I should probably seek out a toys for tots donation bin this coming holiday season. DC2 also has a summer birthday which means we haven’t been planning on doing birthday parties with other kids for her — we tend to visit the in-laws around her birthday and she gets feted with all her cousins in attendance and then we come back and have cake at home on the actual day and again with my sister the nearest weekend (and when we had daycare they would have treats at school… I don’t know what we’ll do for her birthday at daycamp) and that seems like a lot of parties already. Once my MIL rented a HORSE(!) for her birthday which seems kind of crazy to me.

    Since DH works at home, he gets to go to the parties themselves (so he can talk to adults in person and I can decompress), though thankfully DC1 is at the drop-off and go age. It really is much nicer.

    I like LaCroix, though I have been drinking it since I was a kid– we midwesterners drank it before it was cool. And my kids do piano and swimming and DC1 does violin and DC1 just begged herself into dance. DC1 went to private school K-4 for various reasons. We are probably aspirational because it is much nicer being upper middle class than not, and it’s going to get moreso if we keep up with the current track of increasing inequality in the country.

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  6. Oddly we have gotten no birthday party invitations this year from C’s schoolmates. Not sure if that is we are transit, or just her school.

    We did not have a party for C last yr as we moved and had a baby. Going to have just moved again this yr. And we have to have a pre-birthday with daddy sometime.

    We also have not really done many activities. Doing swim now only because she really needs to learn to swim. But again, this is partly a had moved, never found places. Maybe next yr I find places for an activity, soccer, dance, gym.

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