Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Wednesday Wonderings - Kids' birthday parties

Posted by Rosie

A couple of press articles have caught my eye over the last week or so.

First, there was all the furore over the parents who invoiced a 5 year old boy who did not turn up for their child's ski slope party.  Then there was yet more shenanigans when Myleene Klass (a celebrity previously unknown to me) tweeted how unhappy she was that 2 parents had asked for a donation towards their children's presents this year, so they could have a class present rather than lots of individual presents.

Image from Pear Tree Greetings

Well I have to say on both counts I was somewhat flabbergasted.  The invoice drama was as total non-story that should never have had any media coverage (says she who is dragging it up again).  I feel that both sides were trying to get their 15 minutes of fame for something that should have been sorted out at the school gate, long before invoices were dispatched. 

However the class gift story fell into a whole different category.  I may be a bit out of touch with middle class England, and certainly schools where the fees are £5,000 per term and to be honest I had no idea who the celebrity was, but I did feel her response was not out of place.  Whether she should have let her views known quite so publicly, on Twitter, is another matter, but I would have felt exactly the same had I been asked for a donation towards a class present.  In their defence, the asking parents said that they did not feel it was unreasonable as they felt this would be a better way for the parents to give their children something that was wanted rather than 20 presents that the children may not want and would serve only to clog up their houses (or words to that effect).

That got me thinking that actually the problem goes back a bit further than either of these incidents.  It goes back to a day, unwritten in history, when a Mum somewhere decided that it would be an excellent idea to invite the WHOLE class to her child's birthday party and in doing so set a dangerous precedent where everyone suddenly had a minimum benchmark to attain.  Parents not wanting to appear mean had to do the same.  Suddenly, in an average class of 30 pupils, there were 29 parties to attend through the year and 29 presents to buy for 29 children, many of whom you do not even know ... hence the buying of unwanted presents that clog up homes across the land.  Great for toy manufacturers.  Expensive for parents.

And it got worse.  Other parents will always want to out-party everyone else and so class parties just got bigger and bigger.  Suddenly you were talking bouncy castles, hire of the local hall, entertainers, ski lope parties and all sorts of other big and expensive adventures.  Kid's birthday parties managed to jump from a few friends round for cake and a round of pass the parcel to something parents may need to take out a second mortgage to afford.  That unnamed Mum who invited the whole class has, in my opinion, got a lot to answer for.

So what do our boys do for their birthdays?  

Tom's birthday was last week and he asked that, rather than having anything particular now, could he take one friend to our local theme park in the summer?  Happy with that.

Ben is a bit more of a party animal but we always limit his parties to about 10 friends.  No entertainer, trips or pricey extras, just a few children, lots of running around, a table full of food to fuel hungry, energetic kids and maybe a treasure hunt if I get around to making the clues.  Ben's happy with that too.

That's how we do it.  What do you think about the children's parties?  Are big parties just the norm now and am I being mean not letting the boys have large and expensive parties?  Please do let me know in a comment.


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15 comments :

  1. Our kids have had a couple of bigger parties but they're almost always held in the home or local park (football). My son is 10 next month and has planned his party completely. He's having 2 friends for a sleepover. They're bringing their bikes and will cycle to a nearby village playground (along off road track) before coming home for tea and a DVD. Not sure what time they'll get to bed though!

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    1. Sounds perfect - you might want earplugs though if you were planning on an early night.

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  2. I love your's and Christine's approach, talk to your children, find out what they would like and negotiate sensibly this allows them to be individuals and takes into account your own limitations. Wife of MOG. x

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    1. So true, Wife of MOG - although given free rein Ben would invite the whole school!

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  3. Another brilliant write-up. I think the asking to contribute to a bigger gift is possible in case of family, but totally and definitely not for peers of the class. Even though me as a mum hate the toddler being given lot's of plastic toys or non-eco stuff. Sort of a control freak in that way!

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    1. Same here with the non-eco stuff. I just see it as such a waste.

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  4. Children's parties frighten me, I have it all to come but will be glad when they have outgrown the idea altogether! #PoCoLo

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    1. Be brave and do only what you are happy with.

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  5. Rosie - this is a brilliant post! Although, I don't think Myleene was fair to splash the email all over her social media for PR, I do think she was right: There is no sense of worth, and the expectation that a tenner will be chucked in is awful - it's greed. If the parents don't want tat suggest charity donations!

    Parties have gone mad - my children have made pop videos, had cricket parties, gone rock climbing and played tag rugby. I cannot believe how much I bow to the pressure. That said - they;ve loved the tea parties with 3/4 guests when we play traditional games.

    I think we need get back to basics!

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    1. So totally agree with you. We should start a campaign!

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  6. Ha! In my innocence we had a romp around party at our house for my son's 4th birthday, after a few years of family parties in the park.

    Such a faux pas. We've never been invited to such an affair. Hiring the local hall is the positively modest option round here.

    Although, to be fair, people in my kids' classes don't feel the need to invite everyone and no one has ever suggested we should buy a group present. And I also suspect some do what we do, which is have a biggish party every few years rather than every time for the others.

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    1. Having a big party once in every few years is a good idea ... but only if you really want to.

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  7. Oh I have all this to come and my sons birthday is the start of the year so I shouldn't feel peer pressure, at the same hand I guess he won't know anyone in his class. Gah. His last 2 baby birthdays have been centred round the adults, then just a normal afternoon tea at home with no structure and lots of toys. I am not looking forward to it....

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    1. Good luck and do what you are comfortable with.

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  8. Kids parties are such a kerfuffle these days! We try and keep it as simple as possible - not least because Grace's birthday is right after Christmas. Thank you for linking to #PocoLo x

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