Bursting the Birthday Party Bubble

My younger daughter is turning three soon, and she is one of the last in her class to do so. 2016 started out with a series of birthday parties for her peers. Every other weekend, we were heading to a museum to pet turtles, a gymnastics studio to tumble, a trampoline park to jump, a carousel to spin around, and a farm to pet sheep.

As much as I like exploring new spots with my kids, the birthday party circuit wore me out. At one point we had so many parties on the horizon, I just bought a bunch of kids’ books on Amazon, and tissue paper and gift bags in bulk, then tossed said book into said bag on any given Saturday. Economies of scale, baby.

Every event was a programmed two hours at a kid-friendly venue. There was often decent food and coffee for the parents (God bless you). No doubt the host parents dropped money and spent time planning these events. I appreciate the effort, I truly do! And Emmeline had a good time.

But, I grew weary of the Evites with 45 prospective invitees. Most of them included the fellow daycare parents, with whom I have no relationship outside of our pick-up and drop-off pleasantries. I started to decline a few parties because I didn’t want to forfeit another Saturday morning.

I’m far from a party pooper. Ask my family and friends – we know parties. We throw parties, we attend parties, we will talk to anyone at your party, we will bring an age-appropriate gift, we will arrive fashionably late, and we will leave on time.

Let's spend money on tickets to see baby penguins instead of standing in a loud, sweaty venue with people we barely know.
Let’s spend money on tickets to see baby penguins instead of standing in a loud, sweaty venue with people we barely know.

At one point, I considered throwing Emmeline a party. Dave tried to convince me to book My Gym, because (his words) “She loves parties at My Gym”. Yes, she totally loves parties at My Gym, but I don’t love spending $250 on parties at My Gym. And they cap the number of pint-sized guests at 25. She’s three. By my count, we should invite approximately three friends to her party.

Trying to be amenable, I researched various venues, but they were costly or required a lot of energy on my part, or someone else in the group had already “used” that spot. I thought about hosting a shindig with cupcakes and juice boxes in our backyard, a la 1988. But that idea didn’t go far: our house is under construction.

After about a day of research, I concluded I didn’t want to throw her a kid-centric party. This is one of the decisions we get to make as parents. In our previous daycare, we were never invited to three-year old parties, because they weren’t happening, and I was cool with that. The phenomenon we’re in seems specific to our current daycare center. By contrast, my five year old, in a class of 16, has been invited to two parties this year.

On Emmeline’s birthday, we’ll spend time together, celebrating as a family. I want to give her a crown and walk around a museum, or a big park, and tie a balloon around her chair at lunch and make sure everyone (mostly she) knows it’s her birthday. I even want to have a BBQ in my parents’ backyard, with hot dogs and cold beer.

There will be birthday parties. Ohhh yes. When she’s old enough to ask, we will make it happen. But for now, I’m bucking that trend.

One thought on “Bursting the Birthday Party Bubble

  1. For us we are just coming into the crazy birthday party season. I hate that parties are so much more expensive now than when we were kids. I remember having a birthday party in my parents garage with a bunch of friends and loved it. Now it seems like shelling out $250 for a venue is common practice…


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