KIDS’ BIRTHDAY PARTY MADNESS

When the pressure to fulfill our child’s birthday wishes becomes too much.

By Libby Hudson Lydecker

My daughter and I walked into to the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills and were escorted to one of the private event rooms. The room was overflowing with floral designs worthy of a society wedding and intricate centerpieces made to look like crowns and tiaras. A long table was set for high tea, with bone china and silver tea services. Champagne was served in lead glass crystal flutes to the mothers as waiters passed food out to the guests. A harpist played in the corner.

At birthday cake time, the birthday girl—at the ripe old age of five—sat at the end of the table in front of a cake the size of which would rival a hedge fund CEO’s retirement party cake.

She blew out the candles and it was then that her mom asked, loud enough for everyone to hear, “What is it that you want to be when you grow up, honey?”

The daughter piped up, “A Crystal drinker!’ (as in the champagne).

It was Birthday Party Hell.

When did it get so complicated? When did the basic backyard barbecue with hotdogs, party hats, and homemade cake turn into catered affairs with face painters and DJs? Maybe it’s just in big cities, but wherever it is, Birthday Party Hell has taken firm hold.

First and foremost, I think it’s fair to say that spoiling our kids with their hearts’ desires comes from a deep and powerful love for our kids, that come hell or high water, we want to give them what they want.

From rentable Romper Room-esque padded rooms for toddlers,to Paintball war fields for adolescent boys, expectations rise, year after year.

I’ll admit I have given in to the pressure myself. Trying to throw the perfect birthday party for each of my kids has become a strain, both financially and emotionally.

I have had the best intentions to make my kids happy, doing the theme they’ve wanted every year—from Buzz Lightyear to American Girl Doll to Minecraft—always making sure to invite the whole class so no one would feel excluded. The perfect cake, the perfect decorations … the search for perfect was on!

But eventually, the pressure started to get to me, and I found that I’d begun to dread the impending birthday seasons. And I started to re-think the whole endeavor.

First and foremost, I think it’s fair to say that spoiling our kids with their hearts’ desires comes from a deep and powerful love for our kids, that come hell or high water, we want to give them what they want. But on another level there is, perhaps, a projection of our own childhood wishes. A subconscious attempt to right some disappointments from our own stories through our kids.

I say it’s time to give ourselves a break. Let’s stop making it so damn complicated. Hey, If you want to throw an over-the-top party and you have the means, then go for it. But at the end of the day, our happiest childhood memories are more often the simple things. The happy feeling after a long day playing outside, the comfort of a cake that Mom made just for you—and the feeling of being truly celebrated on the day of your birth.

Happy Birthday!